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Houston Firefighters Outright Reject New Contract with City Administration

The failed contract could result in more budget overruns for HFD.

Despite the deal being brokered between the union president and Mayor Annise Parker, 93 percent of firefighters voted against the plan. Parker says the contract was intended to reduce overtime costs and now she’ll have to come up with a different plan, which could include laying off firefighters, running fire vehicles with fewer people on board or switching to a three-shift schedule.

“I am not interested in laying off firefighters, I didn’t lay off firefighters during the worst of the recession, I’m not interested in laying off firefighters now,” Parker said. “I know HFD Chief Terry Garrison is adamently opposed to running vehicles short-staffed. That would be the so-called four on a truck, vs three on a truck. We are committed to four on a truck. I know the chief believes that is critical to firefighter safety. So the remaining options are brownouts or changing the shift schedule.”

Parker says that last option is the first one she’ll turn to if overtime costs run up.

The contract would have limited the number of people who could be out on vacation or holiday leave at the same time, thereby cutting the amount of overtime needed to cover those absences. The money saved by reducing overtime would have been used for a four percent pay raise for the firefighters. Union President Bryan Sky-Eagle says that was a major sticking point.

“The concessions were too high, the restrictions on benefit time, vacations, holidays, things like that were simply too high. The idea that the firefighters would be funding their own raise was not acceptable. And again, enough of the giving, we have to go back to the table and find the right balance,” Sky-Eagle said.

Sky-Eagle says although he helped negotiate the deal with the city, he’s not surprised that it was rejected.

“Neither the mayor, nor I, were crazy about this deal. It both had things we liked and did not like. We spent six months trying to get to that balancing point. What I do like is the fact that the firefighters have stood together,” Sky-Eagle said.

Since the deal failed, an evergreen contract between the city and the union will stay in effect until a new agreement can be reached.

 

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Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Executive Producer for News

Laurie Johnson leads daily news coverage for HPM. She helps reporters craft and sharpen their stories on tight deadlines, with the aim of getting the most relevant and current information into local newscasts. Laurie is a native Houstonian who started her career at Houston Public Media in 2002. She is...

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