Houston firefighters asking voters to bind Mayor Turner for contract

Thursday, June 3, 2021
Houston firefighters asking voters to bind mayor for contract
They've been without a contract since 2017 and they've gotten thousands of signatures to add a binding arbitration initiative to the city ballot.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Houston firefighters announced Wednesday afternoon they've collected thousands of signatures to add a binding arbitration initiative to the city ballot. If approved by voters, it would force the city to meet with an arbitrator when the two sides couldn't agree to contract terms. The arbitrator would have the power to impose contract terms after hearing both sides.

Houston firefighters have been without a contract since 2017. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner has consistently opposed arbitration.

Turner recently proposed an 18% pay raise to be paid out over the next three years. The funds come from the latest round of COVID-19 stimulus funding. The city budget - currently being negotiated - only guarantees the first year of that raise.

READ MORE: Proposed Houston firefighter pay raises to cost $115.3M for next 3 years, Mayor Turner says

Mayor Sylvester Turner revealed the proposed cost of pay raises for Houston firefighters, which is something the mayor said is what the city can afford for now.

"The devil is always in the details. We appreciate any kind of stipend or [pay] increase from the federal government, whatever you want to call it," Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association President Marty Lancton said Wednesday afternoon. "The only way to bind the city and take care of fire fighters is through a collective bargaining contract. The mayor knows this."

Lancton pointed out the pay raise does nothing to resolve long standing health and safety issues, pension obligations or dozens of other issues covered by a contract.

READ ALSO: Texas Court of Appeals tell Houston Mayor 'NO' in legal dispute with firefighters

He said the association already has 5,000 of the needed 20,000 signatures. They plan to collect the rest by the end of the month. If enough are approved it will appear on the city of Houston's November 2021 ballot.

Meanwhile, Turner issued the following statement Wednesday night.

"Today, Houston City Council took the first step in implementing the 18 percent pay raise over three years for firefighters. Binding arbitration is not in the taxpayers' best interest because it would put someone who is not elected or accountable to voters in charge of making decisions about employee salaries and benefits. Instead, the city is ready to negotiate with the firefighters' union through the regular course of business, which is collective bargaining. That is what we do for HOPE, the municipal employees union, and for the Houston Police Officers Union."

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