Judge upholds contract awarded to firefighters union Local 22 two years ago (UPDATE)

Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Idee Fox has affirmed the contract terms originally awarded in 2010 to city firefighters and paramedics union Local 22. “Philadelphia’s firefighters and paramedics applaud Judge Fox for her decision affirming our basic rights and our dignity,” union president Bill Gault said in a statement. “We also extend our thanks to thousands of citizens and elected officials who have supported us along the way.”

The contract was first awarded over two years ago by a neutral, third-party arbitrator, but Mayor Michael Nutter’s administration appealed. After another round of arbitration returned virtually the same terms this past July, Nutter again appealed, arguing that the city simply couldn’t afford the retroactive wage increases, which have snowballed into what could now be a large, lump-sum payout.

Local 22 the same month announced the filing of a lawsuit attempting to force the Nutter administration to abide by the terms twice awarded. This is the third time the same contract terms have been awarded to the union in what has become a drawn-out battle with the Nutter administration. “All we have ever sought is for the city to let us do our jobs saving lives, and to honor our binding arbitration rights,” Gault said. “We have now won the same award twice in arbitration and once in court.”

The terms of the four-year award, which expires on June 30, 2013, includes a one-year wage freeze for fiscal year 2010, followed by a three-percent across-the-board increase retroactive from July 1, 2010 and two additional three-percent wage increases retroactive from July 1, 2011 and from July 1, 2012, respectively.

The city was not permitted to furlough firefighters or to eliminate or reduce chief’s aides. It is required to continue to pay into the Retiree Medical Fund and to increase payments into the Legal Services Plan. Disabled members will now be entitled to cash out accrued vacation time when they retire.

There is no change in pension for current employees, though new
employees will have a choice of a health care plan with a six percent
employee contribution or the city’s hybrid pension plan. The vacation situation is similar, with current workers seeing no changes and new hires able to use only one week of vacation during the summer months during their first five years on the job.

The city’s proposal to move to a self-insurance system, effective in
January 2011, was granted, along with a $5 million rebate from current
fund reserves. No changes were granted to the residency requirement, as was awarded in the Fraternal Order of Police contract.

It is unclear whether the Nutter administration will appeal the contract terms for a third time. “Enough is enough,” Gault said. “We hope the mayor sees it the same way.”

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