Firefighters to get first Prop B paychecks next week amid layoffs

After three failed Proposition B mediation meetings, tensions seem worse than ever between Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Firefighters Union President Marty Lancton.

Mayor Turner said Friday he is moving forward with implementing Prop B, issuing paychecks to firefighters next week, but not without layoffs, demotions, and a reduction from four shifts to three.

“It is unfortunate that many many firefighters will be receiving big checks because of Proposition B, while others will be looking for new jobs,” said Turner.

Turner held a press conference Friday morning, after the Prop B mediator declared negotiations between the city and the firefighters union at an impasse.

“This month, May the 10th, firefighters will be issued lump sum checks for January first through the first part of May, totaling about $31 million,” said Turner.

Lancton says the mayor refuses to fill out four pages that would provide key financial information about police officers and would prove the firefighters are getting pay parity with police.

“If he is supposed to be paying these firefighters in accordance with the law next week, why is he not filling out very basic information?” Lancton asked.

“We do not fill out charts, but the other things you have to bear in mind, part of this offer is to give the firefighters union a block amount of funding,” said Turner. “They can place the dollars anywhere they want to.”

Block funding is part of the three and a half year phase-in offer the mayor says he made unsuccessfully in the final mediation meeting Thursday.

“Three and a half year phase-in with no layoffs—that is what I’ve agreed to, but the response now is still no,” said Turner.

“He didn’t tell you that he demanded that we agree to declare Proposition B unconstitutional,” said Lancton. “He didn’t tell you that he demanded three shifts. He didn’t tell you that he asked for more concessions. He didn’t tell you a lot of stuff.”

The mayor spelled out details of the three and a half year phase-in proposal in a letter to City Council and City Controller Friday. It shows firefighter pay raises would only last for 4.5 years.

Proposition B was passed by voters without a termination date.

“They’re asking the city to agree that Proposition B continues to live forever,” said Turner of the firefighters union’s demands. “That is certainly new.”

Lancton sent Turner a new proposal for a four-year phase-in plan Friday morning. The city is not agreeing to it.

The mayor started his press conference Friday, saying it is now in Judge Garrison’s hands to rule on the motion for summary judgement.