Pittsburgh Contract Improves Benefits for Women Firefighters

Dec. 24, 2023
Pittsburgh's IAFF Local President, Ralph Sicuro, said previous firefighters contracts were not set up to have women among the ranks.

Dec. 22—The union representing Pittsburgh firefighters has agreed to a new contract with the city following six months of negotiations, Mayor Ed Gainey's office said in a statement Friday.

The contract includes base wage increases every year for five years plus additional increases for lieutenants, captains and battalion chiefs.

Details on the pay bumps and other changes were not immediately available. A spokesperson for Mr. Gainey's office refused to provide the Post-Gazette a full copy of the contract citing the newspaper's ongoing labor dispute.

Ralph Sicuro, president of the union representing city firefighters, called the bargaining process a respectful one in which the bureau, too, made concessions "in a collaborative effort to support the city's financial well-being."

That includes an agreement to unscheduled work-time adjustments and the "strategic repositioning" of bureau leaders.

"This change will help ensure more efficient management of the fire bureau to meet the increasing demands on our dedicated firefighting force while fostering a positive relationship between the union and the city," Mr. Sicuro said in a statement.

He said the contract also secured new benefits for firefighters, including parental leave, pregnancy-loss leave and health screenings.

Those new benefits are significant. An audit released last month by the city controller's office detailed the abysmal rate of women within the Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire: just five out of 706 employees, or less than 1%.

The audit cited, among myriad other issues, the lack of paid family leave for city firefighters, something already negotiated into the contracts for city police and EMS personnel.

Mr. Sicuro told auditors at the time that his union had been fighting for paid family leave "for a number of years."

"Our system from stations to policies and even equipment was never designed for or even given consideration to female firefighters," Mr. Sicuro told auditors. "We have a government that talks a lot about diversity, equity and inclusion, but we don't do anything to address it."

The agreement also touches on the modernization of the city's fire stations, a topic explored extensively in the recent audit.

Not only are many of the stations in desperate need of repairs, the outdated facilities exacerbate the issue of recruiting female firefighters, as most that are past a certain age have facilities for what was, at the time, an all-male staff. Those facilities include locker rooms, restrooms, showers and bunk rooms. In Pittsburgh, four of 30 firehouses have separate accommodations.

One of the city's five female firefighters told auditors that her firehouse had a separate bathroom and shower room but no separate or private sleeping space.

"She felt that her firehouse afforded her adequate privacy but other firehouses where she might work did not have any facilities by gender," the report said, "which can create an awkward living space for all firefighters."

The audit continued: "She did report that her male coworkers have been willing to share their space."


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