HFD layoffs still possible

May 16, 2011 4:26:31 PM PDT
Houston Mayor Annise Parker is discussing ongoing negotiations between the city and the firefighters union as they try to prevent layoffs of classified employees. Close to 700 civilian workers were laid off last week.

Mayor Parker says she doesn't want to add classified firefighters to the list of city layoffs. She says she's prepared to say she won't be laying off police officers this go-around and hopes to do the same with the city's firefighters.

They are still on the job, but Houston firefighters we talked to are honestly worried about potential layoffs.

"I will be devastated, I have a lot of young guys, who work hard; I'd hate to see them lose their jobs," Firefighter Joey Goffney said.

After almost reaching an agreement Friday, Parker admits she might have to issue pink slips if there is no handshake deal on Tuesday.

"I don't know that we have ever in the city of Houston laid off any of our classified personnel, and I certainly would not want to be the mayor that had to issue that notice, and it's certainly my goal to, whether I actually issue the notices or not, that I actually don't have to do it," Parker said.

At its core, the fire union wants only temporary concessions until the economy improves.

"It doesn't make sense to me, it wouldn't make sense to you to make permanent concessions to a temporary problem," Houston Firefighters Union President Jeff Caynon said.

Parker is looking for permanent concessions to save the city around $13 million.

"There has to be some permanent savings, some real savings to the city to make this work," she said.

With the deadline looming, accusations are flying from both sides that this is more about politics than making a deal.

"If we don't make a deal and firefighters are laid off, then I think you absolutely have to lay that at the feet of the mayor," Caynon said.

And firefighters are worried about just one thing.

"I'm just concerned about the jobs," Goffney said.

Both said they didn't want to negotiate this issue in the public eye, although many people are voicing their concerns aloud.

Unless an agreement is made, negotiations are scheduled resume at 11am Tuesday. If no agreement is made by Tuesday, pink slips might have to be issued.

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