HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The City of Houston and Houston firefighters will be back to meet with mediator Dave Matthiesen Tuesday afternoon.
Emerging from Monday night's session after 3 and a half hours of meetings, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner told reporters he was, "Tak(ing) one step at a time."
The fire union remained silent as they left, explaining only that the mediator asked the parties not to speak with the media.
Fire chief Sam Pena described the session to ABC13's Ted Oberg. "You know what, it's cordial. Like I said when I came in, I'm encouraged by the conversations."
Pena declined to offer a guess on the likely success of the ongoing talks.
Monday's meeting with a mediator was the first session in a renewed judge-ordered effort to find a deal to end the bitter battle over Prop B pay parity for Houston firefighters. It was longer than the three previous meetings between the mayor and firefighters combined.
If no deal is reached Tuesday, Judge Tanya Garrison ordered both sides back to the table next week. Only the mediator can declare an impasse between the parties in the non-binding sessions.
In an order signed Monday morning, Judge Garrison writes, "Should no resolution be reached, the Parties shall return to mediate with Mr. Matthiesen on Monday, April 29 (or another day that week as dictated by Mr. Matthiesen's schedule). The parties will continue to mediate this case until: (1) a settlement is achieved; or (2) in the sole determination of Mr. Matthiesen, they have reaches (sic) an impasse."
The timing of the mediation is significant as Houston's city council is expected to vote Wednesday on a plan to lay off 220 firefighters. There is no word if council members would hold off on a vote if the two sides are still talking.
Appearing at a news conference with soon to be laid off Houston municipal employees, Houston Council Member Dave Martin expressed hope that a deal would be reached that would make Wednesday's expected vote "null and void."
The Houston police union is also part of the court ordered mediation. The HPOU brought the initial lawsuit against the city to declare Prop B unconstitutional. Judge Garrison said she needs several more weeks to rule on that part of the case.
For the latest investigations, follow Ted on Facebook and Twitter.
Have a tip for Ted Oberg? A problem to solve? Get in touch with us on our tip page, or send a tip below. (On mobile? You can open our form by tapping here.)
City of Houston sends layoff notices to 66 fire cadets
Mayor Turner says Prop B is cheaper, can be implemented faster, but union calls it short on detail and 'improper'
Mayor chides media for not asking union his Prop B questions
Firefighters hope Houston judge will implement Prop B pay raises immediately
Mayor re-proposes 5-year Prop B deal as council kills trash fee
Firefighter pay scuffle delays Houston City Council again
13 Investigates finds questions in city's Prop B offer
Houston mayor lays out plan for Prop B firefighter raises
Protest over firefighters stops business at Houston City Council
In fight for Prop B pay parity, clarity between mayor and union disappears
Mayor Turner writes open letter to Houston regarding Prop B
City of Houston filing seeks to invalidate Prop B pay parity for firefighters
'You're pushing it, so be careful' War of words at Houston council over Prop B
Houston's trained heroes are stuck chopping wood, pouring concrete
Fire union to Turner: It's past time to implement Prop B
Prop B implementation has mayor sparring with fire union
After judge's decision, city's Prop B planning remains stalled
Judge denies police and city's request to delay implementation of Prop B
14-day hold granted on Prop B implementation in Houston
Council narrowly agrees on law firm to defend against Prop B
Campaign against firefighter pay parity raises nearly $1 million
Campaign against fire 'parity pay' funded by mayor, police union, reports show
City and firefighters back to the table over Prop B Tuesday afternoon