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Pittsburgh Firefighter Residency Restrictions Lifted

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- City residency requirements have been lifted for Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire firefighters.

That is the ruling of a neutral arbitrator who has determined the city did not have the right to restrict residency.

The arbitrator has now issued a cease and desist order on the city's enforcement of residency for its firefighters. By declaring the requirement invalid, all 657 uniform firefighters are now free to live wherever they choose. 

"My membership is obviously happy with the decision that's come down," Ralph Sicuro of the Pittsburgh Firefighters Union said.

City police officers were granted that option four years ago, and now the city firefighters have it. Sicuro said it's the right decision.

"I think giving people the choice to live in the city or whether they want to live in the suburbs is the right thing to do," he said. "Everybody should have the ability to choose."

The arbitrator's order follows a 2017 state Supreme Court decision striking down a similar residency requirement for city police, allowing them to take up residence elsewhere.

The court voided a 2013 referendum approved by city voters requiring in-city residency for both police and firefighters, ruling instead the requirement would have to be negotiated with the unions as part of their collective bargaining agreements. In his ruling, the arbitrator said the city failed to do so with the firefighters.

"Had the City wanted to impose in-City residency restrictions for currently employed Fire Fighters, the negotiations ... would have been the time and the place ... The City of Pittsburgh is hereby ordered to cease and desist from imposing any residency restrictions," the ruling reads.

Sheehan: The city didn't know this was a matter for collective bargaining?

Sicuro: I can't speak to what the city did or did not know. You'd have to ask them.

The negotiations preceded the Gainey Administration, but the mayor's office did issue a statement on Tuesday.

"As a matter of procedure, the City of Pittsburgh does not negotiate details of union contracts via public comment. The arbitration award speaks for itself and the Department of Law is currently reviewing the decision to determine best steps forward."

The city now has 30 days to appeal, but if it does not the order will stand. Sicuro says it will not impact service to the public or the safety of those who like to have a firefighter living on their street.

According to Sicuro, "If you live next to your neighbor, of course, it's nice to have that comfort zone there. But that doesn't mean all of our members are going to run away and live somewhere else. We're still going to be here. We're still going to be part of our community."

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