Nutter gives nonunion workers raises, but with givebacks

Blue-collar union leader Pete Matthews, seen here protesting in 2004, says Mayor Nutter on Wednesday was "using his spin" by raising wages but getting givebacks from the city's nonunion workers while the city's unionized workforce continues to work without contracts. MICHAEL BRYANT / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Blue-collar union leader Pete Matthews, seen here protesting in 2004, says Mayor Nutter on Wednesday was "using his spin" by raising wages but getting givebacks from the city's nonunion workers while the city's unionized workforce continues to work without contracts. MICHAEL BRYANT / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Posted: September 28, 2012

IN A MOVE sure to heat up negotiations with the city's unionized work force, the Nutter administration announced Wednesday that the city's nonunion workers and supervisors will get a 2.5 percent pay bump effective Monday.

But the package - which covers 5,500 city workers - includes significant employee givebacks on pension and health-care costs and the possibility of furloughs.

A similar package was offered to the 12,400-member blue- and white-collar city unions, but was rejected. The unions, district councils 33 and 47 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, have been without a contract since 2009.

Stuck between the thorny negotiations between the city and its union workers were the nonunion workers, Nutter said during a news conference on Wednesday in City Hall.

"I've concluded it's time to help those that we can help," he said. "It's time to take action now."

Nutter has been seeking givebacks from the unions like changes to work rules, pensions and health care, noting that the city needs to cut costs.

Under the deal for nonunion workers, their health-care contributions will more than triple from $42 a month to $141 for those with a family plan and from $14 a month to $49 for a single employee. Employee contributions to the pension fund will rise by 1.5 percent of their salary.

"Somewhere in another year or so, we'll be faced with 25 percent of our budget going to pension and health-care costs," Nutter said. "That's before we open one rec center, pick up a bag of trash, put an officer on the streets."

The package also includes elimination of double-time pay for overtime work and a restoration of step increases based on merit and length of employment. Both were frozen in July 2009. Deputy Mayor Everett Gillison said some people would see significant increases.

Budget director Rebecca Rhynhart said the average gain for nonunion civil-service employees will be $2,114.

Exempt and nonunion civil-service workers are in the executive branch and in independently elected offices like City Council, the District Attorney's Office and the Sheriff's Office.

But union leaders argue that Nutter's package is a pay cut.

The deal "is a pay and benefit cut for the vast majority of city employees - a massive pay cut for some," said Cathy Scott, president of DC 47, noting the increased employee contributions. "It is not something we would negotiate. It is not something we would accept."

The announcement comes on the heels of news that DC 33 members will have to dole out $50 every two weeks for health benefits starting in November - the first time they will have to contribute toward their health care.

DC 33 President Pete Matthews said Nutter's announcement was a negotiations ploy.

"The mayor has done this to cause aggravation in the union. He's using his spin," Matthews said. "It's not going to work on us."

Traditionally, the unions would negotiate a deal with the city, and the nonunion workers would get the same package. So is the city trying to send the unions a message?

"I think it's certainly a strong statement by the administration of where it would like the city to be in terms of collective bargaining that needs to be done," said Sam Katz, who heads the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority. "Is it a message that will move labor? I'm dubious."

The administration says it is simply providing a raise to nonunion workers who have worked without one since 2007.

"The message we're trying to send here is that the people who have waited and have given, it's time to move on, at least with them," Gillison said. "If 47 and 33 take anything from that, then that's what they can [do.]"

"We're not just going to wait anymore," he said.

Both the city and the unions say they have not reached an impasse yet. Unlike the police and fire contracts, which are reached through arbitration, the city is required to negotiate with district councils 33 and 47.

Rhynhart said the package with the nonunion workers would cost the city $17 million over five years. That figure doesn't include money that could be saved from furloughs.

Nutter will also seek City Council approval for legislation to place new workers into a separate pension plan known as Plan 10, a hybrid offered to police officers.


Contact Jan Ransom at ransomj@phillynews.com or 215-854-5218. Follow her on Twitter @Jan_Ransom.

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