Negotiations between the City of Pittsburgh and its police department have resulted in no progress, and the process is heading into formal arbitration.
The key dispute is over pay raises for police officers. The city wants a pay freeze for the current year, with a small 1% raise next year, and 2% raises in the next two years. Pittsburgh has had very public budget woes in recent years and claims it is very limited in the amount of money it can commit to pay raises.
The police union, however, believes Pittsburgh does have the funds for higher raises, in spite of the fact that the firefighters union accepted a similar agreement with the city last year. The union believes that the pay raises the city is offering will cause a mass desertion of officers to other municipalities and police forces, leaving Pittsburgh understaffed and with an experience deficit.
Pittsburgh has already suffered the loss of more than fifty officers in the last few years. The city, however, contends that no matter what the union believes, there simply isn’t enough money to offer significant raises.
Unusually, the arbitration proceedings are scheduled to be public. This would imply that both sides see their arguments as very strong and able to withstand public scrutiny and investigation. Police union contracts are typically very difficult to negotiate due to the essential role of the police in daily life and public safety. Pittsburgh is currently involved in the Act 47 Program, designed to assist cities and smaller communities with serious financial distress.