Ruling On Firefighter Union Lawsuit On Hold Until Next Week

A decision on a request from Local 22 of the International Association of Fire Fighters for a court order blocking Mayor Nutter's budget cuts doesn't appear to be coming for about a week.  The union sued the city yesterday, asking Common Pleas Court Judge Gary Di Vito to issue an injunction until it has arbitrated a grievance on the decision to close seven fire companies.  The union also asked the state Supreme Court to intervene, since it has a hearing scheduled for March on an appeal of a 2007 Commonwealth Court ruling on how the city is allowed to close fire companies.  The Supreme Court has not ruled on that request.

Di Vito granted a request from the city to follow up today's three-hour hearing with legal briefs on Monday morning.  The city argues that the 2007 case gives it the right to close fire companies.  The union argues the budget cuts will put firefighters at risk for injury or death and that workplace safety language in its contract gives it the right to go through the grievance process first.  Union attorney Nan Lassen asked Deputy Fire Commissioner John Devlin if there is some "line" that gets crossed with budget cuts where the city doesn't have enough Fire Department resources to safely protect the city. "I'm sure there is a line some place but we haven't reached it yet," Devlin testified.

No firefighters are being laid off and no fire stations are being closed.  Nutter's budget staff says the city will save $10.4 million per year in Fire Department overtime by shifting staff from five fire engines and two ladder trucks to other posts.  Delaying the cuts, the city said, by three months would cost $2.5 million and possible result in more employee layoffs or the closure of more library branches.

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