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Pittsburgh firefighters agree to 4-year contract

Bob Bauder
| Friday, March 6, 2015, 12:46 p.m.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto's administration successfully negotiated its first major public safety contract with a union that supported Peduto's opponent in the primary election.

Pittsburgh firefighters agreed this week to a wage freeze for 2015 and minimal raises from 2016 through 2018 under a four-year deal with the city, officials announced Friday.

The city and International Association of Firefighters Local No. 1 reached an agreement without having to go through binding arbitration.

Under the terms, firefighters will receive raises of 1 percent in 2016 and 2 percent in 2017 and 2018. Peduto Chief of Staff Kevin Acklin, who participated in negotiations, said the raises would cost the city about $2.4 million over four years. The city budgeted about $55.7 million in 2015, primarily for 674 firefighter salaries.

“I give a lot of credit to the mayor and also (union President) Ralph Sicuro,” Acklin said. “In particular, his leadership team ... showed a lot of professionalism, recognition of where we stood as a city. Ultimately, we came up with a contract that's good financially.”

The firefighters union and Fraternal Order of Police Fort Pitt Lodge 1 backed Jack Wagner, one of two opponents Peduto defeated in the 2013 Democratic primary. The Fraternal Order of Professional Paramedics Local 1 was the only public safety union to support Peduto.

Sicuro, who in January succeeded longtime union President Joe King to lead contract negotiations for the first time, said 390 of about 612 members turned out to ratify the contract during votes Tuesday and Wednesday.

“It was just over 85 percent voted in favor,” he said. “There were a few who weren't quite happy, but the majority were in favor of this contract.”

Contracts with firefighters, police, paramedics and municipal workers expired in December. Acklin said negotiations are continuing with the other unions, and he expects an agreement with paramedics to be finalized within a month. He was unsure how negotiations might proceed with the police union.

“I don't have any handicap on whether we're going to come to an agreement or we're going to go to arbitration,” he said.

Acklin said the firefighters' contract adheres to limits set in the city's 2014 Act 47 fiscal recovery plan and has approval of state-appointed fiscal overseers.

The firefighters union agreed to drop a lawsuit it filed alleging that the city used its state-authorized status as a financially distressed municipality under Act 47, which limits amounts unionized employees can receive in raises and benefit increases, to circumvent collective bargaining.

The contract provides each firefighter with an annual $700 allowance for uniforms after taxes are deducted and requires firefighters to submit to random alcohol testing and hair testing for illegal drugs.

Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-765-2312.

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