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Mayor Freezes Hiring Ahead of Pay Parity Vote

The city claims the measure may cause new employees to lose their jobs if passed

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner has frozen hiring and promotions across city government.

The Mayor instructed department directors seeking “critical” hires to meet with him or his staff in person.

In a statement to News 88.7, Press Secretary Mary Benton attributed the freeze to Proposition B, a ballot measure set for November that would match the salaries of Houston’s firefighters to police officers of the same rank.

Benton said if the measure is passed firefighter pay would increase by at least 25 percent, costing the city $98 million.

“The impact would financially cripple the city and force layoffs and cutbacks to services,” Benton said in a statement Wednesday morning. “The mayor believes it is not prudent at this time to hire additional city of Houston employees, who could lose their jobs as a result of the election.”

The fire fighter’s union has pushed back on the Turner administration’s claims the city does not have enough money.

“We believe this mayor has continually upped the ante when it comes to his vindictiveness towards firefighters,” Marty Lancton, president of the Houston Professional Firefighter’s Association, said to News 88.7. “And I think this is just another tool that the mayor has continued to use in an effort to establish his power.”

Lancton said Houston has lost 275 firefighters to other departments in the past three years. He said those firefighters voluntarily resigned, due to wages, benefits, and working conditions.

Turner’s internal letter initiating the freeze states the directive will be reassessed later this year, but gives no definite date.