Mayor orders attorney to withdraw appeal of city's challenge to case involving firefighter backpay

Courtney Carpenter Image
Wednesday, January 3, 2024
Negotiations resume between city, firefighters union over pay raises
After years of back and forth, newly sworn-in Mayor Whitmire says negotiations with Houston firefighters about their pay will resume Wednesday.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Newly sworn-in Mayor John Whitmire started negotiations regarding Houston firefighters' pay on Wednesday.

Whitmire met with representatives of the Houston Professional Firefighters Association and ordered an attorney to withdraw the appeal of the city's challenge to a case involving firefighter backpay.

The city says this begins the process of ending former Mayor Sylvester Turner's long-running court fight over fair pay and benefits for Houston firefighters.

If you've lived in Houston for a while, you've probably heard about Prop B and all of the controversy surrounding it.

There have been lawsuits back and forth for years, but Whitmire says that's over. He talked about it Tuesday night at his inauguration party at the George R. Brown Convention Center, which was held to honor first responders.

This is a big deal, considering the department has been without a contract for the last seven years - despite both sides filing lawsuits at the taxpayers' expense. Whitmire says he's committed to getting a solution without any more lawsuits.

SEE PREVIOUS REPORT: New Houston mayor set to enter into negotiations with firefighters union over contract feud

With John Whitmire as Houston mayor, it could be a pivotal point in the yearslong fight with firefighters' contracts.

"We are going to negotiate. We're going to get out of the courthouse. You know we shouldn't resolve our differences. The city, the mayor, and the fire union shouldn't be done in court. It should be done in the mayor's office. It ought to be fair to Houstonians, and it ought to be fair to the firefighters," Whitmire said.

"You can't solve a problem if you don't admit, acknowledge you have a problem. That's step one. Step two is you can't keep suing Houston firefighters. We've lost 500 in the past seven years. Unprecedented loss for public safety," Houston Professional Firefighters Union President Patrick "Marty" Lancton said.

In 2021, the city approved an 18% increase in firefighter pay over three years using federal COVID-19 dollars. But the union was not satisfied, calling it a temporary bonus and not a permanent raise.

Former Mayor Sylvester Turner said the pay hike was what the city could afford at the time.

Whitmire went on to reiterate that he disagrees with suing first responders and that he wants to solve the dispute and get to work recruiting new firefighters.

For more news updates, follow Courtney Carpenter on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.