Phila. firefighters' raises from arbitration upheld

Posted: November 22, 2012

A Common Pleas Court judge upheld raises for Philadelphia firefighters Monday, dealing Mayor Nutter a legal setback.

The ruling by Judge Idee C. Fox denied an administration appeal of an arbitration award that granted the city's 2,100 firefighters and medics three years of 3 percent raises.

The administration has estimated that the contract will cost $200 million over the next five years, which city officials say they cannot afford under their financial plan.

Local 22 of the International Association of Fire Fighters argued that this was a much-deserved pay increase that came after the firefighters had worked without a raise or contract since 2009.

An arbitration panel first awarded the contract with the raises to the firefighters in 2010. The administration appealed to Common Pleas Court, arguing that the award did not comply with the law that created the Philadelphia Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority, the city's financial overseer. Under the 1991 law that created PICA, the city must submit a balanced five-year budget annually to the authority.

Both sides agreed to send the case back to a three-member arbitration panel, which in July allowed the 2010 award largely to stand.

"All we have ever sought is for the city to let us do our jobs saving lives, and to honor our binding arbitration rights," Local 22 president Bill Gault said in a statement. "We have now won the same award twice in arbitration and once in court. Enough is enough. We hope the mayor sees it the same way."

It was not clear whether Nutter would appeal to Commonwealth Court. His administration has argued that the second arbitration award was significantly more expensive than the first, based in part on rising health-care costs.

Mark McDonald, Nutter's spokesman, said that the administration was not prepared to comment before seeing the judge's written opinion. That opinion has not yet been issued.

The award's four-year term expires June 30, 2013.

Contact Miriam Hill at 215-854-5520,, or follow @miriamhill on Twitter.

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