Friday, April 25, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

City, Firefighters face off in court over arbitration award

The Nutter administration and the city firefighter union faced off in Common Pleas court today over an arbitration award that the union wants implemented and the city says is too costly.

City, Firefighters face off in court over arbitration award

The Nutter administration and the city firefighter union faced off in Common Pleas court today over an arbitration award that the union wants implemented and the city says is too costly.

Before Judge Idee C. Fox, the city’s attorney Shannon Farmer argued that the four-year contract – which runs from July 1, 2009 through June 30, 2013 -- would add more than $200 million to the city’s five-year financial plan and that the arbitration panel did not properly consider the city’s ability to pay.

“They’re significant costs,” said Farmer, of the Ballard Spahr law firm, adding that there are no savings in the award to offset the expense.

But the union’s attorney Nan Lassen, of the Williams, Willig and Davidson law firm, said the city is suffering from “sour grapes” and should accept the terms which she said the panel reached after lengthy consideration.

“I keep hearing the voice of our Vice President Joe Biden when he said ‘that’s malarkey,” said Lassen, referring to comments made by Biden in last week’s vice presidential debate. “That is our view.”

This battle has limped along for years. An arbitration award was first issued in late 2010, which the city appealed. In July, an arbitration panel issued another very similar award, which included three years of three percent raises, protection from unpaid furloughs and more funding for health benefits, prompting yet another appeal from the city.

The union argues that this award is very similar to the current police award, which the city chose not to appeal. But Farmer said there were cost-savings in the police contract that included changes to healthcare and the ability to impose unpaid furlough days – though the city has never used that power.

Fox requested additional materials from both sides and is not expected to rule for several more weeks.

In December, bargaining will likely begin on the firefighters’ next contract, whether or not this dispute is resolved.

About this blog
Chris Brennan, a native Philadelphian and graduate of Temple University, joined the Daily News in 1999. He has written about SEPTA, the Philadelphia School District, the legalization of casino gambling, state government, the mayor, the governor, City Council and political campaigns. E-mail tips to brennac@phillynews.com
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Jenny DeHuff is a 2005 graduate of the University of Rhode Island, where she cut her teeth in journalism. A South Philly transplant from New England, she joined the Daily News City Hall Bureau in 2013. For the past several years, she has worked as an investigative reporter exposing corruption in suburban politics, covering sometimes ghastly criminal court cases and following the people’s money and how its spent. In addition to being a dogged news hound, she enjoys reading and writing about travel, animals, Irish whiskey and aviation. E-mail tips to dehuffj@phillynews.com
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Sean Collins Walsh is from Bucks County and went to Northwestern University. He joined the Daily News copy desk in 2012 and now covers the Nutter administration. Before that, he interned at papers including The New York Times, The Dallas Morning News and The Seattle Times. E-mail tips to walshSE@phillynews.com
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