Firefighters upset over Philly police arbitration award
January 18, 2013By Tom MacDonald
The city of Philadelphia has decided not to oppose an arbitration ruling that gives police officers a raise. That's irking firefighters who say they're being treated unfairly.
City officials decided that the Fraternal Order of Police arbitration would not be appealed. The award means a 3 percent pay increase retroactive to July 1, 2012, another 3 percent raise in July of this year and an additional 1 percent for "stress pay."
City Finance Director Rob Dubow says the award comes with ways to offset the raise.
"It was an award that also gave us the right to do furloughs, it gave us health-care savings in the tens of millions of dollars. It gave us some vacation time relief, so it was a very important award for us," he said Friday afternoon.
Bill Gault, head of the firefighters union, said the decision is another insult to firefighters who have been working without a contract since 2009. Saying it's too costly to implement, city officials continue to oppose the contract award given to firefighters by an arbitrator.
"If they can afford (the police award), they can afford ours," said Gault. "The city controller told them that we won it in arbitration twice, in court once. When does it stop?"
City officials say the decision was not made to hurt the firefighters.
City Solicitor Shelly Smith says even though the firefighters are upset with the decision, it's in the best interest of the city.
"We're not worried about the animosity, because we recognize that sometimes we have to make a decision that's in the interest of all the taxpayers that the group that seems to be impacted by the decision may not like," she said. "We're prepared for that. Sadly, part of our job is to do things that make people unhappy. We're OK with that."