The plot thickens.
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter is asking the Common Pleas Court to let the city impose new contract terms on the blue-collar union District Council 33. The new contract would provide pay raises to workers in return for huge pension changes, overtime concessions and potential furloughs.
“What’s the holdup? That new employees would go into a different pension plan? That we would ask current employees to pay a little more into a fund?” asks Nutter. “This is what the union leaders are holding our public employees hostage over.”
This is the latest chapter in Nutter’s feud with the union. He issued a harsh warning in mid-January that his latest contract offer to the union was the absolute final one. He set a deadline for union leaders to accept, or else. That deadline passed without a deal.
But it might not be easy for Nutter to get what he wants from the court.
In 1993, the Commonwealth Court ruled that the Philadelphia Housing Authority couldn’t impose new terms on employees as long as they continued to negotiate and show up for work.
Shannon Farmer, the city’s chief negotiator, says this case is different.
“In PHA, the parties had reached agreement on a number of topics,” she says. “That is not the case here. We’ve reached agreement on literally nothing.”
District Council 33 has been without a contract since 2009. Union leaders say the city can afford a contract without givebacks since it’s got money for projects like a Dilworth Plaza ice skating rink.