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Prop B Mediation Between City Of Houston And Firefighters Fails

Mayor Sylvester Turner says layoffs are now inevitable.

Florian Martin/Houston Public Media
Mayor Sylvester Turner is flanked by Fire Chief Samuel Peña, left, and city attorney Ron Lewis during a news conference Friday morning.


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A court-ordered mediation between the city of Houston and the local fire and police unions has failed.

Attorney David Matthiesen, who serves as the mediator, declared an impasse Friday morning because no progress was made since the three parties started first meeting last week, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said at a news conference.

District Judge Tanya Garrison had ordered the mediation in the legal fight over Proposition B, a voter-approved measure giving Houston's firefighters equal pay with police officers of similar ranks.

Turner said the city had proposed implementing the pay raises over three-and-a-half years, not laying off or demoting any firefighters, not requiring similar education for firefighters and police officers who are paid the same, and no layoffs of firefighter cadets.

Turner says that didn't satisfy the union, and as a result the city has no choice but to lay off hundreds of firefighters and other city workers in order to balance the budget.

"The fire union said it did not want layoffs, but this now is a self-inflicted wound," Turner said. "It cannot keep moving the goal post."

But the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association says it's the city that wasn't ready to make concessions.

In fact, union president Patrick ‘Marty’ Lancton denies the city even made the offer. He said one particular request from the city was unacceptable to the union.

"We would have to agree that the Proposition B, the will of 300,000 voters, that we would have to defy democracy and that we would have to agree that Proposition B is unconstitutional and gets overturned," Lancton told News 88.7. "We would absolutely never do that."

He also took issue with the city not agreeing to provide the union with a list of how much each firefighter will earn under Prop B.

Turner said firefighters would receive a block amount of $307 million over three-and-a-half years.

"They can place the dollars anywhere they want to, distribute them to the employees," he said. "Similarly to what the police do."

Lancton said union members told the mediator on Thursday they would need 12 hours to consider the city's proposal and turned in their own proposal Friday morning.

"And the city rejected the offer of a four-year phase-in with very simple things," he said.

Lancton said the firefighters union wants to continue mediation and accused the mayor of ending it.

Turner said the city will now do its best to implement Proposition B and will issue checks worth $31 million in back pay to firefighters who should already have received raises.

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