By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — One of the longest running and most contentious labor disputes in Philadelphia history has come to an end.
Mayor Nutter today announced that the administration’s negotiators had struck a deal with the city’s largest municipal workers’ union, District Council 33.
AFSCME DC33 represents about 10,000 current and retired city blue-collar employees, including streets and sanitation workers.
Mayor Nutter had been in Atlanta, Ga. for a DNC meeting, but quickly returned to Philadelphia to make the formal announcement.
In 2008, Nutter’s first year in office, the mayor struck a one-year contract extension with both DC33 and the smaller white-collar union, DC47.
But negotiations on a longer-term deal dragged on, with the two sides at odds for several years over three matters sought by the mayor: a two-tier pension system for new hires, the right to furlough workers, and an overhaul of overtime rules.
DC33 had been without a contract since July 1, 2009, and the new deal covers that period through the end of June 2016.
The mayor says he is relieved.
“Look, it wasn’t always pretty, and it was the quietest thing I’ve ever done. But we’ve gotten through it,” the mayor said.
Nutter attributed the length of the negotiations to the impact of the 2008 recession:
“It’s unfortunate that the Great Recession came literally at the same that we were in negotiations with our employees, and we just couldn’t do the kinds of things that I wanted to do.”
There’s no retro pay in the agreement but two years of raises going forward. The mayor did win concessions on health care benefits, pension reform, and work rules, while backing off on seeking the right to furlough workers (see summary document below).
It was last year that the administration put what it called its “final offer” on the table, and then went to court asking for a judge’s permission to impose the terms of that contract. Today, Nutter said the city was withdrawing that legal action.
Nutter says the deal will cost the city $127 million over five years. City finance officials must now determine where that money will come from in the city’s long-range budget, known as the Five Year Plan.
The head of DC 33, Pete Matthews, credits the work of a state mediator with getting this deal done, and he’s optimistic that rank-and-file members will ratify the contract.
“We got wage increases, got the furlough days off the table, good increases in (the city’s contribution to) health and welfare, (and) a signing bonus,” he tells KYW Newsradio.
But Matthews points out there will only be a short breather before the next negotiations.
“It’s twenty-two months. It will end in June of ’16, which means we will go back into negotiation beginning of that year with a new mayor.”