HOUSTON - Delving deeply into a massive windfall of federal relief cash, Mayor Sylvester Turner says he's awarding Houston Firefighters an 18 percent pay hike over the next three years.
The press conference took place at City Hall at 2 p.m.
"I have always said and believed that firefighters work very hard at protecting our community and deserve a pay raise that the city can afford," Mayor Sylvester Turner said in a press statement. "The pay increase we are announcing today will serve to move firefighter's salary to within market average range for their jobs as determined by the city's most recent salary survey conducted by Segal Waters Consulting."
Joined by fire chief Sam Pena for the Houston Fire Department, the mayor held a press conference at City Hall Wednesday afternoon.
"But for the dollars that are coming from the American Rescue Plan, we would not be able to do what we are doing right now," Turner said.
With contract talks locked in a protracted stalemate, the Mayor's pay hike represents the first salary increase for the beleaguered first responders since 2014.
"These pay raises in my estimation are fair, they're just and they're affordable," Pena added.
This comes after a lengthy battle between the city and firefighters for wage increases.
"This pay plan will help us be more competitive in our industry, help with retention and recruitment, and allow us to continue funding all other obligations for a functional fire department. I am extremely grateful and appreciative of this plan," Pena added in a press statement.
At a cost of $115 million, Mayor Turner says the higher wages will bring HFD pay substantially closer to compensation incomparable Texas cities.
For example, the City claims a Dallas Firefighter currently earns $22.17 per hour and after the new raise is completely implemented, a Houston firefighter will make $21.35 for the same sixty minutes of labor.
"Being below market rate, that's being addressed by what we are doing here today," said Turner.
The unilateral deal does not address five years of back pay the firefighters insist they are owed after contract talks completely stalled in the protracted, acrimonious impasse between Turner and union leadership.
Houston Professional Firefighter Association President Marty Lancton refers to Turner's pay raise as a "bonus from the federal government" that fails to settle a multitude of outstanding issues.
Lancton also calls Turner's pay parity claims with other Texas fire departments inaccurate.
"The City is on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars and for somebody to come in and graze over that is like not paying your mortgage for five years and saying, you know what, I'll just start paying you what I believe I should be paying moving forward. I'm not going to settle what I owe you for not paying my mortgage. That's not how the real world works," said Lancton who rejected the City's parity numbers with other Texas fire departments as inaccurate.
The pay raise for Houston firefighters is set to take effect in July.