Members of the International Association of Firefighters and Paramedics Local 22 will be in court Wednesday afternoon in an attempt to prevent the city from demoting 14 Philadelphia firefighters who had just been promoted in May.
At the heart of the dispute is whether Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers must fill vacancies for captain and lieutenant positions with firefighters who pass the promotion exam, or whether Ayers can make promotions at his discretion.
After the city in early May didn't fill fire department vacancies based on the then-current promotion list, Local 22 sued.
Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Leon Tucker on May 14 ruled in the union's favor, compelling the city to fill five captain and nine lieutenant openings with firefighters whose names were on the promotion list, which expired May 24.
But the city appealed the decision and Commonwealth Court Judge Dan Pellegrini agreed, ordering Sept. 18 that Tucker's ruling be reversed, meaning all 14 recently promoted firefighters would be demoted.
During the appeal, the fire department administered a new round of promotion tests and the 14 firefighters who had already been promoted were excluded from consideration, according to the union, meaning were they demoted and would have to wait a year to reapply for the jobs.
The battle took another turn Tuesday evening when Court of Common Pleas Judge Ellen Ceisler put a stop to the demotions until Tucker reviews the case.
"The Philadelphia Firefighters and Paramedics Union Local 22 thanks Judge Ceisler for preventing the Fire Department from moving forward with its planned demotion of 14 of our members tomorrow," Local 22 President Joe Schulle said in a statement.
"The PFD has no justifiable reason for this grossly unfair move that would severely hurt these firefighters' careers and their families' finances. We will continue to fight this injustice in the courts for as long as it takes."
Local 22 members postponed a planned 9 a.m. protest outside the fire department headquarters and will at 1:30 p.m. be in Tucker's courtroom to continue arguing their case.