After years of cold war, the clash between Mayor Nutter and the city's blue-collar union may be heating up.
The administration on Wednesday made its “final offer” in negotiations over how to replace a contract that expired in 2009, and the union promptly rejected it. Now, Nutter says the union has two weeks to make a deal before the city takes action, which could mean unilaterally enforcing his proposal.
“If we aren’t able to reach an agreement, a new collective-bargaining agreement by Jan. 30, 2013, the city will have no choice but to evaluate our various options to bring an end to this stalemate,” Nutter said Wednesday evening.
Administration officials said eariler that one of those options could be imposing their proposal without union consent. Another is “court intervention,” although they declined to specify what that might look like.
The administration’s proposal includes pay raises, possible furloughs and changes to pension benefits.
Pete Matthews, president of the American Federal, State, County and Municipal Employees District 33, said late Wednesday that because his union has so far declined to strike, he objected to Nutter’s portrayal of it “taking the city hostage.”
“We will sit down and go over [Nutter’s offer] and make hopefully some kind of offer,” Matthews said. “But it’s typical Mayor Nutter, who dictates terms. He doesn’t know how to negotiate.”
He added that the pay raises the city offered are illusory because of the possible furlough days and other provisions.
“What he’s offering in wage increases and what he wants in concessions is not a raise. It comes out to a minus,” Matthews said.
Nutter, meanwhile, says pension reform is necessary “to be fair to our public employees while at the same time being fair to our taxpayers,” because the city’s pension obligations take up a bigger part of the budget every year and are still vastly underfunded.
The union wants to keep the current defined-benefit plans. Nutter, however, is pushing for “hybrid plans” that include city contributions to private retirement accounts.
Nutter said the only way the union can avoid the two-week deadlins for action is “ a serious response, a serious counteroffer.”