Pay parity for firefighters implemented but the feud between mayor and firefighters worsens

Houston firefighters were issued their first paychecks on Friday that reflected their Proposition B pay raises. 

On Friday, May 10, thousands of firefighters will be getting a boost in their checks, but it cost $31 million,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said during Tuesday’s council meeting.

Pay parity for firefighters and their police counterparts officially happened with Friday’s paycheck, but the fight between the mayor and the fire department only seems to be getting worse. The union says hundreds of firefighters got no pay increase whatsoever.

“Whatever it was paid to some firefighters is not Proposition B, and it’s not what firefighters are owed by law,” said Marty Lancton with the Houston Professional Firefighters Association.

Whether they saw a boost in pay or not, 287 firefighters and 60 municipal employees are still getting laid off next month due to Proposition B.

“It’s not political, it’s financial,” Turner said.

“It’s very stressful for all of us,” said fire Captain Slate Hill with Station 33. “Almost all of us are either getting laid off or are getting demoted.”

“I’m one of the 220 people who got their layoff in an e-mail,” said Houston firefighter Keifer Quirk.

Quirk also recently learned he’s going to be a first time father.

“Of course I get the layoff notice on that Friday, a healthy baby on the way, and getting laid-off on the way,” Quirk said.

“In the midst of these storms and these floods, these are the men and women out their saving lives and this mayor has dug a very deep hole,” the union president said.

A spokesperson for the mayor said there are firefighters who saw no pay increase because they don’t have the same educational background as a police officer holding the same rank.

That spokesperson says firefighters with questions about their check should ask human resources.

Four thousand firefighters are expected to file grievances against the city about Friday’s paychecks.  

The adjusted pay comes after a long and bitter fight between Mayor Sylvester Turner and the firefighters union on whether or not to phase in the raises, or layoff hundreds of firefighters

Mayor Sylvester Turner released the following statement on Friday:

"Today, the City of Houston issued paychecks to Houston Firefighters that reflect the implementation of Proposition B, the measure passed by Houston voters last November that called for pay parity between police and fire. Although pay parity is not clearly defined in the language of Proposition B, the City has imposed the same or similar requirements for firefighters as those requirements established for police of the same or similar rank and pay.

"Over the past several months, the City has worked to reconstruct its payroll system to accommodate a new pay structure for firefighters. Today, a total of $27,434,140 was issued to 3,905 firefighters in a lump sum amount that includes payments retroactive to January 2019. 

"For comparison, the regular HFD payroll prior to Proposition B was $10,218,208 (biweekly). Now that Proposition B has been implemented, the HFD payroll going forward until June 30th will be estimated at $12,270,290 (biweekly), representing a total increase of $31 million to the FY2019 budget. Firefighters will receive another 4% increase to their base pay starting July 1, 2019 to match the police contractual pay raise.

"The voters approved Proposition B and the City is implementing it without phasing in the raises, which was our preferred option. I still believe Proposition B is very bad financial policy for the City. However, I also believe the firefighters deserve a raise.  The issue of the legality of Proposition B is left to the courts, but I want Houstonians to know that we are moving forward to implement Proposition B and fulfill the will of the voters, in a fiscally prudent manner without jeopardizing the financial integrity of the City.

"Since Proposition B did not come with a funding source and the City is under a revenue cap, we have had to make some tough decisions to reduce expenses, including instituting employee layoffs and eliminating vacant positions. Although we have closed budget gaps in the past four years, we have never had to result to layoffs to balance the budget, but the cost of Proposition B simply cannot be absorbed.

"All city employees, including police, fire and municipal employees are important, and I am proud of the work they do every day to serve the people of Houston. 

"As Mayor, layoffs are the last resort because I know our employees work hard and they need their jobs, but until the courts rule on the validity of Proposition B, the City must move forward with its implementation.

"These are difficult circumstances, but Houston is a city that has overcome many challenges.  We must now focus on the future and on being the resilient city that we are."


The Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association responded to the city's implementation of Prop B with the following statement:

“Mayor Sylvester Turner’s political and legal war against firefighter families continued today, but with a new development: the mayor congratulating himself on ‘implementing’ Proposition B.

“The problem is, contrary to the mayor’s Orwellian claims that all is well with his vision of Prop B,
hundreds, if not thousands, of Houston firefighters got paychecks today that were wrong. The City of Houston cannot account for what was (or was not) paid today. Sylvester Turner still refuses to disclose whether, how and when he will fully equalize pay and incentives for Houston fire and police as voters directed six months ago in the election.

“After the City of Houston paid hundreds of millions of dollars for 37 percent HPD raises since 2011, with no phony fiscal crises and layoffs, Sylvester Turner manufactured this city budget crisis to justify his vindictive campaign against firefighters. Now, he hopes no one will notice that the city badly botched his ‘implementation’ of Prop B. What he accomplished today was forcing about 4,000 firefighters to individually file grievances against the city to force a clarification of today’s payroll equivalent of a dumpster fire.

“The spewing forth of mystery money by Sylvester Turner is not an ‘implementation’ of Prop B, as he calls it. It’s just more smoke and mirrors from a dishonest politician intent on destroying HFD and punishing firefighter families who have no better idea today of what they are earning than they did before the election.”