Nutter will ask court to let him impose terms on DC 33

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter (left) and Herman "Pete" Matthews (right), president of AFSCME District Council 33. (File photos)

After years of stalemate, the Nutter administration on Friday asked a judge to allow the city to impose his "final offer" on the city's largest union. 

Nutter is seeking permission from a Common Pleas Court judge for the city to implement the plan he presented to District Council 33 two weeks ago. The plan includes incremental pay raises in exchange for cost reductions in overtime rules, possible furloughs, a less generous pension plan for new hires and other changes.

"Union leaders have held our public employees and the taxpayers hostage," Nutter said at a press conference. "We are no closer to an agreement today than we were four years ago."

DC 33 President Pete Matthews said that his union is still willing to bargain and that Nutter's desire to implement terms unilaterally is typical of the way he negotiates.

"That does not surprise me. I’ve said it in the past: He tries to act like a dictator. He dictates terms," Matthews said.

It looks like an uphill battle for the administration. In 1993, a Commonwealth Court ruled that the Housing Authority was not allowed to impose terms on its workers as long as they didn't strike, and the state Supreme Court took a pass on the case. 

But Shannon Farmer, the city's chief negotiator, said Friday that the facts of this case - DC 33 has been without a contract for years, not months like the PHA workers - will lead to a favorable decision.

Nutter says an overhaul of pensions and work rules for city workers is necessary for the city's financial health.

Union leaders, however, contend the city can pay for its workers since it balances its budget every year and can still afford vanity projects like the Dilworth Plaza renovation outside City Hall, which will cost the city tens of millions of dollars.