No progress seen in brief talks between city and union

Posted: March 02, 2014

Any hope that the city's labor settlement this week with AFSCME District Council 47 would lead to speedy progress with its big brother, District Council 33, was punctured Friday with a negotiating session that apparently went nowhere.

The Nutter administration's negotiating team met twice Friday afternoon with a roomful of about 25 officials from D.C. 33 in the Liberty Ballroom of the Sheraton Philadelphia Downtown Hotel. The first meeting lasted about three minutes. The second, about two hours later, went for five.

The talks then adjourned indefinitely, with no word of when further meetings might occur and neither side suggesting anything important had just taken place.

"We just don't see eye to eye," D.C. 33 president Pete Matthews told reporters as his colleagues headed home for the weekend. "There's things that we just have to talk about, and I don't know how we're going to get there. We're trying, but I don't know. . . . I really don't."

The city's chief negotiator also struck a negative note. "We were hoping that the union would come in with some new proposals for us today," said Shannon Farmer. "They haven't, and we just asked them to get in touch with us when they have some new proposals."

The sessions came three days after D.C. 47 reached a tentative eight-year deal with the city. It includes a $2,000 signing bonus and raises in each of the next three years, but no back pay for the six-plus years union members have gone without a pay increase.

The Nutter administration gave up its demand that new hires enter a less expensive hybrid pension plan - but secured higher contributions from employees who stick with their current pension plans.

"All contracts are different - 47 is 47," Matthews told reporters before Friday's brief talks. "That settlement doesn't have anything to do with us."

He said the other union's tentative deal was not discussed even when the D.C. 33 negotiators were meeting privately among themselves.

Both unions have faced the same general issue - a five-year labor standoff in which workers had frozen wages and higher deductions for medical coverage. The city was pressuring both to permit temporary furloughs, up to three weeks annually, and to send new employees into the hybrid plan with lower guaranteed pension benefits.

The tentative D.C. 47 pact runs to mid-2017, with the signing bonus and yearly raises of 3.5 percent, 2.5 percent, and 3 percent, starting 30 days after ratification. The deal still faces a ratification vote by the 3,500 members of the largely white-collar union.

While the city dropped its bid for authority to furlough workers for up to three weeks each year, the union agreed to layoff rules that provide the same flexibility the Nutter administration says it was looking for.

D.C. 33 is bargaining for 8,800 city employees, including sanitation workers, Water Department workers, airport personnel, and civilian employees in the Police and Fire Departments.

D.C. 47 represents an assortment of workers, including social workers, registered nurses, and health technicians.

The other two city unions, representing police and firefighters, generally resolve their contracts through arbitration.


warnerb@phillynews.com

215-854-5885 @bobwarner1

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