City reaches tentative deal with white-collar union

Mayor Nutter (left) and District Council 47 president Frederick Wright prepare to sign the tentative contract for the city's white-collar workers. It would end a stalemate going back to 2009.
Mayor Nutter (left) and District Council 47 president Frederick Wright prepare to sign the tentative contract for the city's white-collar workers. It would end a stalemate going back to 2009. (TROY GRAHAM / Staff)
Posted: February 27, 2014

Update: Pete Matthews, president of AFSCME District Council 33, declined to say anything pro or con about the city's tentative pact with the smaller AFSCME bargaining unit, District Council 47, announced Tuesday night. “This is all I’m going to say about that:  all contract negotiations are different.  Police is different from Fire, DC 33 is different from DC 47,” Matthews said in a brief telephone interview. “We’re going back into negotiations Friday.”

Earlier Story

The City of Philadelphia has reached a tentative eight-year contract settlement with its white-collar union, ending a stalemate going back to 2009, Mayor Nutter and the union's leader announced Tuesday night.

The proposal, still needing approval from about 4,000 rank-and-file members of AFSCME District Council 47, includes three wage increases and a $2,000 ratification bonus, but no back pay for the five-plus years that the workers have gone without raises.

The tentative pact is a long one - retroactive to 2009, and extending to the middle of 2017. It calls for wage increases of 3.5 percent one month after ratification, an additional 2.5 percent in mid-2015, and 3 percent one year later.

Nutter estimated the contract's cost at $122 million over the next five years - "a substantial challenge for our budget but one that we believe is warranted on behalf of our employees and taxpayers," he said.

D.C. 47 president Frederick Wright said the Nutter administration had given up on two critical issues: authority to furlough employees for up to three weeks a year, and a proposal to force newly hired union members into a new, hybrid pension plan with lower guaranteed benefits.

But as of 2016, current employees will have to chip in an extra 1 percent of their pay to their pensions, for a total contribution of 3 percent. And new employees who opt for the old pension plan instead of the hybrid will have to contribute about 4 percent, the city said.

"We've been working tirelessly to get to this point," Wright said after he and Nutter signed the tentative agreement in a rooftop conference room of the Sheraton Philadelphia Downtown Hotel at 17th and Vine Streets.

D.C. 47 comprises unions representing an assortment of city employees generally described as white-collar, including social workers, registered nurses, librarians, accountants, and court workers.

Wright termed the deal a "fair contract," and urged leaders of the larger AFSCME bargaining unit, District Council 33, which represents about 10,000 blue-collar city employees who have also worked without a contract since 2009, to step up their negotiations.

"I hope they get in here and negotiate a contract for their members. Because their members deserve a contract like our members deserve a contract," Wright said.

He then shook Nutter's hand. "Thank you for that," the mayor said.

Asked if he would cut the same deal with D.C. 33, Nutter told reporters: "Each of the contracts is different and unique. . . . We'll see, but I'm not going to make any predictions about one contract vs. another."

Pete Matthews, the president of D.C. 33, could not be reached Tuesday night for comment. He and other D.C. 33 leaders met with the Nutter administration on Friday for the first time in a year, reporting some movement but nothing significant.

Nutter said he expected the administration to be back at the table with D.C. 33 again this week.

The mayor said D.C. 47's deal includes technical changes that will improve the city's handling of layoffs intended to be temporary. He also cited new overtime rules that will preclude time-and-a-half pay in situations where an employee takes sick time as part of his or her regular 40-hour week.

The tentative agreement followed an all-day negotiating session Tuesday between union leaders and administration officials.

Asked if anything in particular had propelled the talks forward after such a long deadlock, Wright credited an open letter signed by all 16 members of City Council, released Monday, urging the administration to give up its furlough demands.

Another factor may have been Wright's arrival last fall. He was elected leader of D.C. 47 in September, unseating longtime president Cathy Scott in what was interpreted as rank-and-file frustration with the protracted contract standoff.

There were early signs of better rapport between Wright and the administration when Nutter agreed in December to advance $2.5 million to the union's depleted health and welfare fund.


THE DEAL

Some highlights of the tentative agreement:

Term: July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2017.

Wages: Ratification bonus: $2,000 per employee.

Thirty days after ratification: Across-the-board 3.5 percent wage increase.

July 1, 2015: 2.5 percent across-the-board increase.

July 1, 2016: 3 percent across-the-board increase.

Pensions: Jan. 1, 2015, employee contributions increase by 0.5 percent of pay, and a year later, by an additional 0.5 percent.

Sick time: Effective Jan. 1, 2015, sick time will not be counted as hours worked in determining when overtime is due on a weekly basis.

Health and welfare: Through Dec. 31, the city contributes $1,100 per member monthly to the health fund - plus a onetime payment of $5 million.

In 2015 the fund becomes self-insured, with employees contributing no less than 9 percent of projected total cost.

Layoffs and furloughs: The union agrees to support changes in civil service rules to let the city "streamline the layoff process" and prevent employees laid off briefly from losing eligibility for the Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP).

Source: Mayor's office


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