Firefighters Want Act 47 Gone

Firefighters Want Act 47 Gone


Almost a week after the Mayor formally requested that the state keep the City of Pittsburgh in Act 47 distressed status, the City’s fire union has expressed its opinion that distressed status should be lifted.  Its letter to the state can be read here.  They note that since the Act 47 coordinators themselves say that Pittsburgh has done enough and has satisfied the terms of removing the City that it should go.

Removing Act 47 would still leave oversight in Pittsburgh by virtue of having the ICA, or the oversight board, in place.  So what does the law that created that agency say about collective bargaining and arbitration?

First, the assisted city must have a financial plan in place showing revenues and expenditures for the current fiscal year and for four years out based on reasonable expectations and forecasts.  The authority can approve or disapprove of the plan.  Any collective bargaining plans in effect prior to the plan would remain in effect, but those negotiated after would have to conform to the provisions of the plan; if it does not, the assisted city would have to show that there would be sufficient revenues to pay for the settlement.  It would be a safe bet that if the City came to the board and said, “don’t worry, we will just start taxing non-profits to pay for the new bargaining agreement” that the board would have the wherewithal to reject it.

The fire union letter also feels that if Act 47 were removed that they would be back to the regular method of arbitration under Act 111.  The oversight board law does mention that if a bargaining matter regarding police or fire proceeds to arbitration that the arbitration panel “shall take into consideration and accord substantial weight” to the plan but also factors such as the financial condition of the city, inflation, productivity, size of the workforce, and pay and benefit levels in economically and demographically similar political subdivisions.  If the arbitrators decide to increase pay or fringe benefits the arbitration panel has to specifically state in writing what factors it took into consideration in giving the increase.  Any party involved in the arbitration matter can appeal a decision to the court of common pleas. If it would be found that the board failed to take into consideration the plan or the market factors or did not issue a determination in writing telling why it chose to award an increase in wages or benefits, then the award is vacated and sent back to the arbitration panel .  If it turns out that the City has exhausted all appeals and there is an award that is not in compliance with the plan, then a revised plan would have to come forward showing sufficient revenues.   At that point the City would have to make cuts in other areas of the budget in order to pay an arbitration award.