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Pittsburgh police ask for raises 1 day after 14-year financial recovery ends

Bob Bauder
| Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, 5:42 p.m.

Pittsburgh's police union is seeking to renegotiate terms of its current contract dating to 2015, citing a provision that permits renegotiations upon the city's release from state financial oversight.

Robert Swartzwelder, president of Fraternal Order of Police Fort Pitt Lodge No. 1, delivered a letter to Mayor Bill Peduto Tuesday saying the union is prepared to begin contract talks.

"... The FOP seeks to reopen the contract to negotiate and/or arbitrate additional terms for the period Jan. 1, 2015, through Dec. 31, 2018," Swartzwelder wrote in the letter. "We will provide you with our bargaining demands at our first bargaining session."

Swartzwelder said the union is seeking a better wage and benefits package.

He said the union would determine amounts after talking to economic experts.

"Now we have a second bite of the apple," he said. "They have the money to pay reasonable prevailing wages to their employees."

State officials, including Gov. Tom Wolf, on Monday announced Pittsburgh's release after 14 years from the Municipalities Financial Recovery Act program, known as Act 47. Act 47 placed constraints on city spending, including employee wage and benefit caps ranging from 2 percent to 3 percent annually. The announcement lifted Pittsburgh's "financially distressed" classification.

"If, during the term of this agreement, the Act 47 plan is terminated or amended ... the parties may reopen the contract to negotiate and/or arbitrate under these limited terms," the contract reads.

Peduto's office referred questions to Solicitor Lourdes Sanchez Ridge. She said the FOP is the only union so far seeking to renegotiate a contract.

Police have complained bitterly for years that salaries of suburban counterparts are higher. Pittsburgh budgeted 2 percent pay raises in 2018 for 892 uniformed officers. Salaries and benefits for those officers and 163 civilian employees total $94 million, according to the budget.

Swartzwelder suggested the city could tap a projected $95 million fund balance in 2018 to cover raises and benefits, or cut back on discretionary spending.

Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-765-2312, or via Twitter @bobbauder.

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