After battling with the city’s firefighters over their arbitration award, Mayor Michael Nutter pulled an about-face and dropped the city’s appeal of the award.
The mayor announced that the city was dropping the award at a press conference last month.
“In light of improved city finances, we have concluded that we would be left with extremely low fund balances but the city can manage the cost of one of the awards,” Nutter said at the press conference. “I’m very pleased to announce that the city of Philadelphia has already withdrawn its appeal of the 2012 firefighter award.”
Firefighters have been left without a contract and a raise since 2009, something which the president of the firefighters union, Joe Schulle, said has started to affect the members.
“In the last four years with gas prices and food prices, everything was going up except the members’ salaries,” said Schulle. “So, they were really starting to feel the pinch economically.”
The mayor said at the press conference that the reason for the dispute with the firefighters was always just about the cost of the award. The first arbitration award was issued to firefighters and then appealed by the city in 2010. A new award was issued in 2012. The mayor said it corrected some of the issues the city had with the initial award but it again appealed the award.
“This dispute was always and only about affordability and we as a city are now in a place to provide pay increases set out in that award,” said Nutter. “Given our improved finances, I have concluded that we can now pay the remaining cost of this award.”
The mayor said that dropping the appeal will “remove a substantial degree of uncertainty” surrounding the new arbitration proceedings.
Though the mayor said the legal battle that has ensued since the initial award was appealed in 2010 was solely about the city’s ability to pay for it, other elected officials said the firefighters were disrespected during the process.
“They’re supposed to get some assurance that once they have their arbitration award and the city takes one shot at appealing some aspects of it, that it’s over,” said Councilman James Kenney, whose father was a firefighter. “These men and women, along with the police department, are people who are willing to sacrifice their lives for us every day, including trying to save the mayor’s life if necessary and there’s no respect for that effort.”