Upping the ante in its talks – or rather court battle – with the city’s blue collar workers, the Nutter administration this week asked the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to allow the city to impose a contract on members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, District Council 33.
Last week administration officials asked a Common Pleas Court to give the city the authority to impose terms, but this week Mayor Michael Nutter said the administration couldn’t wait.
“I’m certain that any decision there will ultimately be appealed to the state Supreme Court,” he said. “Since this matter is of such pressing public consequence to city employees and taxpayers locally, as well as public employers throughout the Commonwealth, we are asking the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in today’s filing to assume jurisdiction immediately over this matter.”
Nutter and both municipal unions have been in a standoff since 2009.
In the city’s filing this week with the Supreme Court, Nutter accused District Council 33 of “holding taxpayers and public employees of the City hostage despite the City’s offer of increased wages and the City’s need for the reforms that it seeks in the negotiations.”
The court action pertains only to District Council 33, which represents nearly 11,000 blue collar workers. The city’s other large municipal union AFSCME, District Council 47, which represents white-collar workers, is still in talks with the administration.
Last month, Nutter publicly announced the terms of his “final offer” to District Council 33.
That proposal included a 2.5 percent raise effective 30 days after ratification and another 2 percent raise in 2014, the final year of the proposed agreement covering the period from 2009.
It did not include any retroactive pay increases.
The proposal would restore step and longevity increments - bringing employees to levels they would have been with a contract, without retroactive provisions.
New overtime rules, increased pension and healthcare contributions were also part of the proposal. Employees would be eligible for overtime only after working 40 hours a week or taking vacation or education leave. Pension contributions would rise 50 percent and new employees would be entered in Plan 10, a pension plan similar to a 401(k). Employees’ contributions to health care would jump from $50 per pay to $72 in the first year of the agreement and drop back to $50 in the second year.
The terms of the expired contract remain in place until a court ruling.
Most city employees have been working without a contract since 2009.
But, Nutter has been ramping up pressure on both unions in an effort to end the impasse. Though the mayor has insisted he is working to end the stand-off because: “At some point in time you have to make that call,” he too has been under pressure to wrap up contract talks.
Officials with the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority said last fall that if the administration did not have contracts in place by the summer of 2013 they would be more likely to veto the city’s budget – which requires PICA approval. City council has also expressed its displeasure at the ongoing feud.
It is not the first time Nutter has used the courts to press his stance on contracts. He has twice appealed an arbitration ruling awarded to firefighters arguing that the city can’t afford the contract awards.