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Administration Defends Decision to Keep Fighting Firefighters’ Contract Award

By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Firefighters packed the chambers of Philadelphia City Council today as lawmakers grilled aides to the mayor about why the Nutter administration is appealing the latest firefighters’ contract award.

The Council hearing came one day after the administration decided to continue the legal battle and appeal the arbitration award in Commonwealth Court (see related story).

At the hearing, the mayor’s finance director, Rob Dubow, testified that the City of Philadelphia can’t afford the cost of the contract, which he puts at $200 million over five years (see related story).

Councilman Bobby Henon asked Dubow about how much they’re spending paying attorneys to fight the contract.

(Henon:)   “Do you have an accurate record on how much you’re spending on legal fees, and what you intend on spending?”

(Dubow: )  “We have to get back to you on that, we really don’t have that with us.”  (catcalls from the gallery)

And Councilman Curtis Jones openly wondered if the mayor’s decision to fight the contract was retribution for the union’s hardline stance against other policies, such as station “brownouts” (see related story).

“For some reason, the fire department is the bald-headed stepchild of government,” Jones said to applause from the gallery.

“For us, this is about the 200-million-dollar cost,” Dubow replied.

The firefighters’ union represents more than 4,000 current and retired firefighters and paramedics.   At issue is a contract that was to have begun in 2009 and continue through this year.  In fact, the arbitration process toward a new contract is set to begin shortly.

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