Judge: Firefighters arbitration panel took city's finances into account

Common Pleas Court Judge Idee Fox on Friday released the written opinion for her November decision to reject the Nutter administration's appeal of an arbitration award for the city's firefighters union. 

In turning away the city's argument that it cannot afford to pay the award, Fox wrote that the arbitration panel gave sufficient consideration to evidence about the city's financial constraints. It's not the courts' role, she reasoned, to question the panel's decision unless there's proof it didn't pay attention to relevant evidence.

The city is appealing Fox's decision to Commonwealth Court. It's the second trip up the appeals ladder for Nutter and Local 22 of the International Association of Fire Fighters. Last time, the Common Pleas Court sent the dispute back to the arbitration panel, which slightly altered but largely kept intact its decision to award the firefighters retroactive pay raises and other benefits.

The union, which has been working without a contract since 2009, has bitterly protested Nutter's refusal to accept the panel's decisions. The administration, however, has maintained that accepting the awards would be too costly for the cash-strapped city.