Mayor Nutter took a beating yesterday from one of his closest Council allies over the mayor's efforts to remove paramedics from the fire union on the grounds that they don't fight fires.
Councilman Jim Kenney, a longtime Nutter supporter, delivered a blistering speech on the Council floor, asking Nutter to reconsider the move.
"I'm asking the mayor as my friend, I'm asking the mayor as the leader of this city to stop this from happening," Kenney said. "We need to hold the line now because these people need our help."
But Nutter said that he wouldn't change course and stressed that he was just following labor rulings.
"I do consider Councilman Kenney a friend," Nutter said. "That doesn't mean from time to time we might not have a difference of opinion on a very serious matter. And we have different roles in this particular matter."
This complicated battle dates from 2003, when a group of paramedics sued the city for unpaid overtime. At the heart of that case was whether medics should be denied overtime under rules that hold those working in "fire suppression" to a different standard. The paramedics ultimately won the case in 2008.
After the paramedics' victory, the Nutter administration appealed to the state Labor Relations Board to have paramedics removed from the International Association of Fire Fighters, Local 22, on the grounds that they weren't firefighters. The state Labor Relations Board sided with Nutter and affirmed that decision last month.
As a result of the recent ruling, Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers this week sent a memo to paramedics saying that any longevity or step-pay increases would immediately be frozen, that union dues would no longer be deducted from their checks and that they would be moved to a different health plan.
"They filed the suit, they were successful, they got what they wanted, we've paid out millions of dollars in overtime," Nutter said. "If you're not a firefighter, you need to be in a different bargaining unit and you cannot avail yourself of the rights and protections that firefighters get."