For the first time ever, Pittsburgh firefighters have agreed to random drug testing as part of a new five year contract with the city. Union President Joe King says that anything that is "sensitive" and deemed to be "intrusive" can be difficult but agreeing to the random tests is prudent.
"The citizens of Pittsburgh entrust their lives and hold us to a much higher standard which we should be held. We're doing the right thing for purposes of safety."
King said in approving the contract, the members did not object to the random tests even though all of the specifics have yet to be determined.
Under the new policy, firefighters who fail a drug test will be placed on a "last chance agreement" under which they can be fired for failing a second drug test. The decision on dismissal will be handled by neutral arbiters instead of a trial board of 3 other firefighters. But King says the firefighters might be tougher on their own compared to a neutral party...."they'll (firefighters) think 'if you don't get your act together, you won't have a career,' they'll (firefighters) fire you in a minute."
However, Public Safety Director Michael Huss pushed for the random test policy after the city tried to dismiss firefighter John Connors after he pleaded guilty to a drug possession charge. But a trial board reinstated him after deciding the city improperly required a drug test for Connors.
Under the new policy, the trial boards will still be used to review possible dismissals for other offenses.