The Pittsburgh police union president Friday denounced the terms of a new contract determined through arbitration that provides officers with raises totaling 16% over four years, calling the decision “patently unfair” and tilted in favor of the city.
Robert Swartzwelder, president of Fraternal Order of Police Fort Pitt Lodge 1, blistered an arbitrator’s decision to split the raises that total 4 percent each year and other contract provisions, including overtime and longevity pay and post-retirement medical benefits.Mayor Bill a Peduto on Friday Jan. 10, 2020, responded to criticism from the city police union over a new contract determined through arbitration.Volume 90%
Officers will receive retroactive raises for 2019 starting with 1% from January to April. They receive an additional 1% for April and 2% for July.
Raises in 2020 will be 2% in January and 2% in July. In 2021, officers will receive 3% in January and 1% in July. Wages in 2022 increase by 3% in January and 1% in July.
“What this means now is you don’t realize the full benefit of the raises until the following year,” Swartzwelder said. “It allows the city to save a lot of money because they don’t have to pay the full amount of the raises until the following year. It is a lopsided, patently unfair, not-based-on-evidence-whatsoever award.”
Neutral arbitrator Robert Creo declined comment.
The city’s 1,000 police officers had been working without a contract since the old one expired in December 2018. Negotiations shifted to arbitration, as required by state law, after the two sides reached an impasse.
Mayor Bill Peduto said he would have considered higher raises had the FOP not presented a list of 26 bargaining items it wanted addressed through the contract. He said he would have considered extending the contract to five years with an additional 4% hike.
“What the FOP leadership asked for was not a salary increase,” the mayor said. “They asked for 26 different requests, and the arbitrator gave it to them. What that meant is that each of them were watered down in order to get to the requests made by the FOP leadership.”
The decision marks the last major contract hurdle for Peduto’s administration.
An arbitration panel earlier this year gave city firefighters raises totaling 20% over five years. The city and the Pittsburgh Joint Collective Bargaining Committee representing Department of Public Works employees agreed to a contract in January 2019 that provides raises totaling 14% over five years.
Pittsburgh paramedics in 2018 agreed to a contract that provides raises totaling 29.3% over five years.
Swartzwelder said the police contract was “compromised.” He said the union would evaluate it and decide whether to appeal the award in court or address “irregularities” through future negotiations.
“The economic package as a whole is so patently unreasonable compared to other bargaining units in the city that it’s outrageous,” he said. “It clearly demonstrates the mayor absolutely dislikes the police and has zero respect for its officers.”
Peduto said that “couldn’t be further from the truth.”
“Not only does my own family have a background with policing, but there has never been a time where I have ever done something that would harm our police officers, and I never would,” he said. “What I want as a liberal is to be able to treat my workers the best that I possibly can. I want to make sure that they’re not only safe, but that they’re well compensated.”
Peduto said the city wouldn’t know the contract’s budget impact for about a week. It will require city council in coming weeks to amend the $608 million operating budget passed in December.
The city in 2020 budgeted for 900 police officers with salaries totaling $64.5 million. The total police budget is $114.8 million, including salaries and benefits for officers and other employees.
The mayor on Friday also signed a contract with American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 2037 representing about 40 city foremen, mainly in public works. The contract provides raises totaling 15% over five years.
“This is the first contract where we got a decent deal,” said union President Jim Emro. “All of the membership is happy with this contract.”