Pa. Supreme Court denies Pittsburgh FOP appeal of 2014 police contract
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld a lower court ruling that denied the Pittsburgh police union’s appeal of a contract awarded through arbitration in 2016.
Fraternal Order of Police Fort Pitt Lodge No. 1 had appealed an arbitration panel’s 2016 contract award, contending it deviated from the city’s former Act 47 financial recovery plan and that officer salaries were not competitive with those of police officers in suburban communities.
The police union had been seeking to renegotiate the 2015 to 2018 contract to get better wages and benefits. Had the contract been renegotiated with more favorable terms, union members could have been eligible for back pay.
Pittsburgh and the FOP are currently in arbitration after reaching a stalemate in negotiations for a new three-year contract. They are still operating under the old contract that was at issue in the case.
The state released Pittsburgh from Act 47 financial oversight in 2018.
“The city is happy with the Supreme Court’s decision, which affirms what we’ve been saying for years – that the contract followed the state-mandated recovery plan, its salary terms were competitive, and the union’s challenge was a waste of time and money,” said Tim McNulty, spokesman for Mayor Bill Peduto.
Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth court ruled that the contract conformed to a five-year fiscal plan crafted in 2014 by state financial overseers and denied the union’s request to void it. The FOP appealed that ruling to the Supreme Court and justices upheld the lower court ruling.
FOP President Robert Swartzwelder said the court at least clarified what can and cannot be appealed when a municipality is under state financial oversight.
“Although the FOP was disappointed by the decision, we respect the decision of the Supreme Court because they’ve now made very clear for all bargaining units what is and isn’t appealable when a municipality is under Act 47,” he said.
Swartzwelder previously said arbitrators acted in bad faith by denying the union’s request for provisions that were awarded to other unions in separate bargaining negotiations. He called the contract “arbitrary and capricious.”
Swartzwelder said the FOP is eligible under the old contract to reopen negotiations for the last year of the pact. He said if successful officers could be in line for salary and benefit increases for 2018.
“After this arbitration is over we’re going to file for the reopener for 2018, which is our right,” he said.
Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-765-2312, [email protected] or via Twitter .