Nutter pressures city labor unions with 'final offer'

Posted: January 18, 2013

The Nutter administration tried Wednesday to ratchet up pressure toward new municipal labor agreements, offering modest pay increases to AFSCME District Council 33 and describing the package as the city's "final offer" to end a four-year labor standoff.

The city continues to demand sharply reduced pensions for new employees, the authority to furlough workers for up to three weeks a year, and new work rules to cut overtime.

Mayor Nutter and other city officials hinted at the possibility of trying to impose contract terms if they are unable to reach an agreement by Jan. 30.

"This proposal is a final offer to D.C. 33, and that is precisely what we told the union negotiating team earlier today," Nutter told reporters Wednesday night. "We have reached deadlock in these negotiations. We are at impasse."

But the administration would not make its threat explicit. The city's chief negotiator, Shannon D. Farmer, said in a letter to D.C. 33 officials that they had until Jan. 30 to reach agreement or "the city will have no choice but to evaluate all the options available to it to bring an end to this stalemate."

Union leaders were unmoved. After a 30-minute caucus Wednesday morning, they rejected the city's package.

In exchange for the concessions on pensions, furloughs and work rules, the city offered a 2.5 percent wage increase, effective 30 days after a new agreement took effect, and an additional 2 percent increase effective Jan. 1, 2014. That would mean going without any wage hikes from July 2009 to the present.

"We strongly disagree with the furlough days," said D.C. 33 president Herman J. "Pete" Matthews. "The way we figure it, our members would get about $1,400 in raises and give up about $5,000" in lost pay from furloughs and overtime. "That's not a raise."

The union's counteroffer called for 3 percent raises each year from 2009 through 2013 - down from 4 percent sought earlier - and no concessions on pensions, furloughs, or work rules.

"We're negotiating," Matthews said. "The mayor's big problem is, he wants to dictate terms. He doesn't negotiate."

D.C. 33 represents about 11,000 nonuniformed city workers in mostly blue-collar jobs, divided into 14 locals, depending on which city agencies they work for. About 6,800 would be affected by the proposed agreement, city officials said.

Another AFSCME affiliate, District Council 47, represents 4,000 additional city workers, also working without a contract since mid-2009. Farmer said a recent bargaining session with D.C. 47 was canceled because of a union officer's death.


Contact Bob Warner at 215-854-5885 or warnerb@phillynews.com.

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