Mayor says Pittsburgh police won't consider financial problems in contract talks
May 8, 2015 12:00 AM
“The FOP has spent its time before the arbitration panel attacking the Act 47 plan — and even me," Mayor Bill Peduto said in a statement.
By Molly Born / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said Thursday that the city’s police union has used ongoing arbitration sessions intended to reach a new contract agreement instead to “attack” the state’s Act 47 program for financially distressed communities.
In a statement released during the latest round of contract arbitration, Mr. Peduto said the Pittsburgh Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 1 “never intended to work within the parameters of the recovery plan” and has “been working on challenging it for two years.”
“The FOP has spent its time before the arbitration panel attacking the Act 47 plan — and even me. The city’s financially distressed status and my support of the plan are not on trial here, and none of these baseless attacks will change that,” the statement said in part.
Richard Poulson, a Philadelphia labor attorney representing the union, rejected the mayor’s characterization, saying bargaining sessions preceding the arbitration — which began in April after months of talks between the parties failed to produce an agreement — did not focus on financial issues.
“The city never made an economic proposal,” he said after Thursday’s session. “They just didn’t want to talk to the police in any substantive way.”
The city has proposed a pay freeze this year, a 1 percent pay raise in 2016, and 2 percent raises in 2017 and 2018, saying Pittsburgh’s status under the Act 47 program limits its ability to provide raises for officers. The police union wants more but has yet to name specific figures.
Gretchen Love, the attorney representing the city during arbitration, conceded in her opening remarks Thursday that although there’s not a “simple solution,” none should involve raising taxes or cutting services.
“I think our experts will tell you that you can’t tax your way out of this problem; it’s just impossible,” she said.
As for services, “We’re down to bare bones. There’s nothing left to cut.”
For the three-member arbitration panel to rule in the police union’s favor, it must prove that the maximum allocations for its workers under its most recent Act 47 recovery plan, approved last year, are “arbitrary, capricious or established in bad faith,” a burden they have not met, Ms. Love said.
Mr. Poulson said the city’s offer is based on revenue projections that are unreasonably low and thus qualifies as arbitrary.
Testimony and remarks continue this morning and are expected to conclude next week.
Molly Born: email@example.com or 412-263-1944.
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