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Philadelphia Will Keep Fighting Arbitrators' Award to Firefighters

By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Mayor Michael Nutter has decided to appeal the recent arbitration contract award to the city's firefighters.  The union -- which had called on Nutter to accept the award -- calls the appeal "a slap in the face."

The arbitration panel gave the firefighters three-percent raises over three years and ruled that the mayor cannot furlough any of them.

Rob Dubow, the mayor's finance director, says the city and taxpayers can't afford the terms awarded and will appeal.

"The decision (to appeal) comes down to the costs of the award," Dubow said today.  "Our costing-out of it... it's around $200 million (over five years), and that's just more than we can afford."

Bill Gault, the head of firefighters' union Local 22 (at lectern in photo), calls Nutter "arrogant."

"We expected this slap in the face.  He cares more about his national profile than he does about the safety of his citizens he governs, or the firefighters who sacrifice their lives to keep the people of this city safe," Gault said.

The union has already gone to court claiming that the mayor has no right to appeal the award (see related stories), after he first appealed it back in 2010.

The contract under dispute actually expired in 2009, and the two sides have battled over it -- in court and in the press -- ever since.  Yesterday, firefighters marched along North Broad Street demanding that the City of Philadelphia abide by the arbitrator's award (see related story).

Confirmation of the mayor's decision to appeal came today as Dubow, the finance director, presented a revised five-year city budget to PICA (the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority), the state agency that oversees Philadelphia's finances.

PICA chairman Sam Katz, himself a onetime mayoral candidate, said another appeal on the firefighters' award is problematic.

"It concerns us that, after two rounds of arbitration, that continuing to reflect zero (percent) increases (for the firefighters) in the face of a very different outcome from arbitration would still be reflected in the five-year plan.  It's a bit of a red flag," Katz said today.

The PICA board is expected to vote on the five-year plan on August 9th, and the firefighters' arbitration dispute is expected to be one of the key issues.

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