Employees can request a medical or religious exemption but will have to be tested for COVID-19 weekly.By Jessica Guay

Pittsburgh, Pa. (KDKA) – The city of Pittsburgh is receiving some pushback from unions after a vaccine mandate for all city employees was announced on Monday.

The mandate requires city of Pittsburgh employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Dec. 22.

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Since this mandate is for all city employees, it applies to Pittsburgh police officers and Pittsburgh firefighters.

Ralph Sicuro, president of Pittsburgh Firefighters Local No. 1, said the union has never been opposed to vaccines, but said it is disappointed because the city made this decision without having a discussion with the union.

“We’re disappointed that the administration would make such a move without having our collective bargaining process put into place, that they didn’t bother to call us and sit down and have a discussion on this, work out the details of this very important issue,” Sicuro said.

Sicuro said the administration violated their collective bargaining rights, and the union is considering legal options.

“We are forced to stand up for our collective bargaining rights that the administration cannot just unilaterally make decisions like this. So we are considering all of our legal options, and we will be preparing to file action against the city for making a unilateral move,” Sicuro said.

Sicuro said around 75 percent of Pittsburgh firefighters are vaccinated, but there may be a portion of firefighters who got vaccinated on their own.

Mayor Bill Peduto’s Chief of Staff Dan Gilman said at least three city employees have died from COVID-19. Two of the employees were police officers and the other was a refuse worker.

He said the city made this move to protect the health of their employees and the public.

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“We think we have hit a plateau on people who would get it voluntarily, and now it’s time to take the next step,” Gilman said.

Employees can request a medical or religious exemption but will have to be tested for COVID-19 weekly.

The executive order states, “city employees who are not fully vaccinated and do not have approved accommodation will be subject to employment actions, including unpaid administrative leave and/or discipline up to and including termination, until they show proof of vaccination.”

“The executive order talks about that we may implement progressive discipline. So come Dec. 22, we’ll work with our law department, HR and others and see where our numbers are and what steps we want to take,” said Gilman.

Sicuro said they aren’t just disappointed about not being included in the process but also about the timing of this mandate.

“What we have to look forward, as the holiday season comes on, is potentially our members being terminated or some disciplinary action right before Christmas. It’s a shame the administration chose this time to do this and without any involvement with us,” Sicuro said.

Gilman said the mayor’s office notified the unions before the mandate was made public.

“We understand unions and they have an important duty and right to represent their workforce and we fully respect that. And we believe we have a right as management to implement this, obviously, or else we wouldn’t have done so,” Gilman said.

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The Fraternal Order of Police has not responded to requests for comment.