Houston Firefighters vote down new contract

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- City of Houston firefighters overwhelmingly voted against a new contract today, with 93% of firefighters voting no.

Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association president Bryan Sky-Eagle says the overwhelming rejection of the city contract offer was a resounding message to Mayor Annise Parker that "We've given up too much for too little."

The vote was 2,709 votes against the contract offer out of 2,916 total votes.

Sky-Eagle believes the vote failed because there are too many restraints on vacations and holidays and the fact the department would have had to fund their own raises. To make that happen, firefighters would have to take the savings from restricting available holidays and vacations dates and use that money to fund the 4% raise.

Sky-Eagle says the bottom line is there were "too many concessions for too little money."

Mayor Parker says city council will take up the budget tomorrow. In the absence of a new contract, firefighter will continue to operate under the old one.

Possibilities for curbing unscheduled firefighter overtime, she says, could mean continuing brownouts.

If overtime costs go up, Mayor Parker said, "We will raise the alarm with the public and take appropriate steps."

Last week, Fire Chief Terry Garrison emailed Mayor Parker's chief of staff, outlining contingencies if the contract failed to be ratified.

Among the worst-case measures Garrison said he would not support are:
  • 3 person staffing on trucks

  • More brown-outs

  • Layoffs

The remaining contingency Garrison wrote, is to go from the current 4 shifts per day, to 3.

The current contract ends July 1. The contract now enters an evergreen period during which firefighters will continue to work under the existing contract.
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