Excerpts from the morning call.com:

ALLENTOWN — The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Allentown firefighters, finding that their union can negotiate the minimum number of firefighters on a shift because it has a direct impact on safety.

In a unanimous decision Tuesday that affects municipalities with professional fire departments across Pennsylvania, the court rejected Allentown’s argument that shift staffing was an issue for managers to decide because of its impact on city finances.

The court found that the city had not presented convincing evidence that an arbitrator’s award setting the minimum number of firefighters per shift at 25 unduly infringed on its managerial responsibilities.

“The testimony and documentary evidence from the arbitration proceedings … clearly establishes an unambiguous and powerful link between shift staffing and firefighter health and safety,” Justice Debra McCloskey Todd wrote for the court.

The city’s claim that a minimum staffing requirement interferes with its management by driving up overtime and pension costs does not show an impact as direct as that on firefighter safety, Todd said. She noted that even with the minimum number of firefighters required to be on duty dictated by the contract, the city still controls the total number of firefighters employed.

“The city retains the ability to dictate the level of fire protection it provides to its citizens and continues to possess ultimate decision-making regarding budgetary matters,” Todd wrote.

While the decision has little immediate impact in Allentown, where the current firefighters’ contract remains in effect until 2020, it makes shift staffing a negotiable item for firefighters across the state.

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