Pittsburgh settles long-delayed contract with paramedics' union

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The union representing Pittsburgh paramedics reached an agreement with the city on Friday that allows them to receive back payments for wage increases for the years they worked without a contract, a provision that will cost the city $1.1 million.

But the contract failed to address the very issue that led to a more than three-year impasse between the union and the city: whether certain rescue functions -- such as extracting victims trapped in cars -- should be shared with firefighters. Instead, Mayor Bill Peduto said that issue will be worked out as the city puts together its next five-year recovery plan, a blueprint it's required to produce as a financially distressed city under the state's Act 47 program.

"That will be part of Act 47 and discussions for the next few years," he said. "Instead of trying to negotiate a new contract with them ... we just took care of the old contract."

Jeff Tremel, president of Local 1 of the Fraternal Association of Professional Paramedics, did not return a call for comment.

The paramedics represented by Local 1, which ratified the contract on Friday, have been working without a contract since December 2010. In the fall of 2012, the paramedics voted down a contract that would have forced them to share some rescue responsibilities with the firefighters, a proposal that was one of several recommendations outlined in the city's recovery plan.

The proposal was intended to make the city's emergency medical response more nimble, since firefighters and fire stations are more numerous than paramedics. Despite the fact the contract was voted down, new classes of firefighters have received expanded training in rescue techniques. Still, Mr. Peduto declined to say whether he supported a shared approach to rescue responsibilities, or if he believed those tasks should be for paramedics exclusively.

"The number of people who are calling for medical attention is continually rising within the city of Pittsburgh. There is going to have to be some modifications made to that to address the need," he said. "The number of fires within the city is decreasing. So there will have to be modifications made."

The recommendation for shared rescue responsibilities came out of a proposal commissioned by the Pittsburgh Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority, another oversight board. Nick Varischetti, chairman of the ICA board, said the authority had not been consulted about the contract, nor had he received a copy of it. The city was not required to consult the ICA about the contract, but Mr. Varischetti said he wished they had.

"We want to make sure that these kind of contracts comply with the necessary recovery plan," he said.

Moriah Balingit: mbalingit@post-gazette.com, 412-263-2533 or on Twitter @MoriahBee. First Published May 19, 2014 2:19 PM

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