How did Prop B negotiations go? Not well, says mayor
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner on Friday said a judge-appointed mediator has declared negotiations between the city and firefighters union over the implementation of Proposition B at impasse.
The announcement ends what had appeared to be some progress toward resolving the dispute over how to phase in raises to firefighters required by the pay parity measure approved by voters last November. The charter amendment requires the city to pay firefighters the same as police of corresponding rank and experience.
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State district Judge Tanya Garrison had ordered the city, firefighters and the Houston Police Officers Union into non-binding mediation three weeks ago. The three sides had met at least three times since.
At issue is how to implement the raises the city says will cost $80 million a year. The fire union has said it would ask its members to consider a three-and-a-half-year phase-in as long as no firefighters are demoted or laid off. Turner had said the city cannot avoid layoffs unless Prop B raises are phased in over five years.
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Friday morning, Turner said the city had agreed to the three-and-a-half-year phase-in without layoffs, but the fire union balked.
The city last week issued 60-day layoff notices to 220 firefighters, and moved to demote hundreds others. Last month, 111 fire cadets and municipal employees were issued layoff notices.
In a statement, the fire union said it had agreed to take a four-year phase-in to its members if pay parity was implemented “effective immediately,” the city agreed to no layoffs and if the city disclosed “what each firefighter will earn in salary and incentive pay.”
HPFFA President Marty Lancton also said the city demanded in negotiations that Prop B be rescinded and declared unconstitutional, a request he adamantly opposed.
“Citizens’ rights to petition the local government must be protected,” he said.