Hundreds of firefighting jobs in jeopardy
HOUSTON The controller's office had to make the painful cuts Friday. Negotiations were ongoing so that firefighters hopefully won't have to be laid off by Tuesday. Another day, another round of layoffs. This time, the city controller's office cut eight people, or about 10 percent of its workforce. "Basically what we do here is based on our employees. We have great employees and so making the tough decisions on who to get rid of is not an easy one that I think any department director takes lightly," Houston Controller Ronald Green said. Within the last week, more than 600 city workers have already been laid off. The biggest question now is will firefighters be getting pink slips? On Friday, the fire union and the city continued its negotiation, hoping a handshake deal reached sometime soon will guarantee no layoffs for two years. "No-layoff guarantee in the first year, and then in the second year, the no-layoff guarantee conditioned on the threshold," one negotiator said. Negotiators are deciding between a three- and a five-year deal. There would be no pay raises the first two years and a restructuring of termination pay. The goal is to save $12 million and jobs. Despite getting close several times, there is still no deal. But behind the scenes, both sides are hopeful they can avoid a situation like Thursday's, where 99 parks employees got pink slips. The simple reality for Houstonians is to get ready for less city services. "I think the expectation is that you will probably see some change in hours, hopefully it won't be a system which will be too inconvenient but certainly, the city has to adjust the way it does business and also, we're going to ask the citizens to adjust to the way they receive the services that we deliver," Green said. We expect to know which service cuts we'll see and feel in Houston within the next two weeks. Negotiators say they plan to continue talks until midnight to try and avoid firefighter layoffs, but they're hoping it won't come to that. So far, 669 city employees have been given pink slips.