Mayor says layoffs coming, no plans for compromise talks with firefighters

Twenty-four hours after a judge reinstated voter-approved pay parity for Houston firefighters, Mayor Sylvester Turner announced he was preparing to launch layoffs as a means of funding the wage hike.

The previously publicized number - more than 900.

"We will do the best we can to minimize layoffs, but we are not going to be able to avoid it," said Turner after Wednesday's City Council meeting.

Despite Tuesday's ruling, the mayor has yet to accept the firefighter union's offer of a return to the bargaining table for negotiations that could ease the sticker shock of an immediate 25 percent raise for more than 3,900 employees.

"Elections have consequences and we have to make tough choices, but I didn't ask for this to be on my plate, but you have to manage it the best you can," said Turner.

While the mayor says he bears no responsibility for the budget balancing layoffs to come, firefighters say the current financial debacle should fall squarely on his shoulders.

As evidence, they offer a letter from May 15, 2017, in which the union requests binding arbitration after contract negotiations with the city reached an impasse.

Four days later, the Turner administration declined, rejecting the chance to settle all disputes and setting the stage for the eventual pay parity ballot initiative which will cost taxpayers $100 million a year.

"Again our door is open. Our phone is on and so far we have not received any communication with this administration," said Marty Lancton, President of the Houston Professional Firefighter Association.

FOX 26 spoke to a number of Houstonians who are troubled by the prospect of layoffs and the lack of communication.

"I think he should go back and negotiate. Not cut jobs," said Ashley Cruz.

"I think he should sit back down and make a deal. These people are on the line everyday," said Jessica Jordan.

"I don't think the voters voted for layoffs. They voted for pay equity and if there is a way to achieve that in a different way, that seems to responsible to me," said Kyle Marvin.