City, blue-collar union back at the table

Posted: February 23, 2014

FOR THE first time in more than a year, the Nutter administration and the city's biggest union are back at the bargaining table seeking to resolve a five-year stalemate over new contract terms.

City negotiators and leaders of blue-collar District Council 33 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees met on and off for four hours yesterday at the Radisson Blu Warwick Hotel at 17th and Locust streets and promised to meet again next week.

Both sides reported little progress on the major sticking points but said they were happy to be back at the table.

"We came here to listen to what the union had to say. We've done that and we look forward to talking to them next week and hoping that there's movement in the areas that are of substantial importance," said Shannon Farmer, the city's chief negotiator.

DC 33 president Pete Matthews, who previously called for "around-the-clock" negotiations, said he wanted to continue talks through the weekend but that the city wanted to reconvene talks next week.

"At this point, you just stay in and keep talking and do what you have to do," Matthews said. "I don't care how long they take."

The sides also are battling in the courts, where Nutter is seeking permission to impose the terms of his "final offer" on the union. Yesterday, Common Pleas Judge Ellen Ceisler ordered a March trial for the case, which could take years to resolve.

Nutter is calling in part for less-costly pension plans for new hires, the right to furlough workers up to 15 days per year and changes in overtime rules. He's offering incremental raises and cash infusions to the union's health-care fund.

The union has opposed pension changes and furlough days and has called for retroactive wage increases and greater health-care contributions.

White-collar District Council 47, which has been without a contract for the same period, also recently restarted talks with the city.

The firefighters' union, meanwhile, is in arbitration with the city for its current contract period, and the police union's contract expires this summer.

On Twitter: @SeanWalshDN


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