AFSCME District Council 33, the largest group of unionized city employees, went back to the bargaining table this afternoon for the first time in 13 months, meeting the city’s top labor negotiators at the Warwick Hotel after a five-year standoff over a new contract.
Pete Matthews, DC 33’s president, called for round-the clock negotiations to settle the impasse, but offered nothing new on the major issues the Nutter administration describes as critical to making a deal – particularly, a new hybrid pension structure for yet-to-be-hired new city employees.
Matthews told reporters that he was determined to protect city pension benefits for younger workers, so that they’d have the same long-term financial security he had when joining the city work force in the 1960.
Representatives of the different union locals comprising the District Council began filing into the Warwick’s grand ballroom around noon, as the city’s negotiators waited privately in an adjoining room. Forty-eight chairs were set up around a rectangle of tables waiting for negotiations to begin.
Among the pending demands, the city is seeking authority to furlough union workers for up to three weeks annually if necessary to balance the budget, a power flatly opposed by the unions. Matthews said the union’s is looking for wage increases around 3 percent annually, with back pay, going back to the end of the last contract in mid-2009.
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