Council hearing on Philly labor issues canceled because Nutter administration won’t attend

    Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter’s critics say that he’s done a poor job communicating with the city unions — the same unions that drowned out his budget address last week.

    A City Council hearing was scheduled this week to get District Council 47, the Nutter administration and the Civil Service Commission talking about the mayor’s recent decision to impose a new compensation package on some supervisory employees.

    But Council members said they got a letter from the city’s Office of Human Resources on Friday, the day after the mayor’s budget address, saying it would be inappropriate for the administration and the commission to attend because of pending litigation. 

    So Council cancelled this week’s hearing, with hopes of rescheduling.

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    District Council 47, the city’s white-collar union, filed a complaint against Philadelphia in federal court over some of the compensation changes, arguing that supervisors were not given the opportunity to object to them.

    Nutter spokesman Mark McDonald said that the administration is not going to talk about the legal issues outside of the courtroom until they’re resolved. The administration has declined to attend other hearings in the past because of pending litigation.

    Kenney said it’s disappointing that the administration wouldn’t send anyone.

    “The city gets sued all the time,” Kenney said. “I just think that sometimes they use that as an obstruction to have to come in and explain the decisions that they make.”

    He believes that the firefighters’ union and District Councils 33 and 47, which have been working without a contract for several years, might not have shouted down the mayor’s budget speech if Nutter had opened up the lines of communication in the past.

    Councilman Bobby Henon, a labor ally, also expressed frustration.

    “I want and expect both [the administration and Civil Service Commission] to be at the hearings,” Henon said.

    The package that Nutter imposed on the supervisors and non-unionized employees includes pay raises, overtime changes and the ability to demand unpaid furlough days.

    The Nutter administration has defended its communication with the city’s municipal unions.

    McDonald said that “the city has modified its proposals repeatedly to gain union support” during contract negotiations, but it has been turned down by the white- and blue-collar unions.

    He said those modifications include increasing pay raises and reducing the number of furlough days.

    The Nutter administration also wants to impose a hybrid pension plan on some new supervisors and non-union employees, but it needs Council to introduce and pass legislation to make the switch.

    Council has not introduced the bill yet.

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