In wake of Prop B, way forward still not clear

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Houston firefighters are eager to get back to the table and make a deal for a raise.

Since a judge declared Prop B unconstitutional last week, Mayor Sylvester Turner has repeatedly said firefighters deserve a raise the city can afford. As of Tuesday afternoon, neither the mayor nor firefighters had reached out to the other to start talking.

In a letter Tuesday afternoon, the union asked the mayor to agree to arbitration, which would force the city and union to take a deal decided by an independent panel of arbitrators.

'They went through hell': 66 fire cadets sworn in after Prop B declared unconstitutional

Arbitration is binding. Mediation, which the two sides failed at earlier this month, is not.

Firefighters' union president Marty Lancton said in an afternoon news conference, "We propose that the city commit to binding arbitration so that we can expedite the impasse of our collective bargaining contract. This is a sensible solution. We continue to wait for the call that the mayor says he is willing to make."

Two hours later, the city appeared to turn down the arbitration offer in favor of collective bargaining.

In a statement, the mayor's office told ABC13, "The City of Houston is willing to return to the table for collective bargaining, which would be the regular course of business. An agreement should obviate all litigation."

As with most things related to Prop B, the negotiation/arbitration path forward is complicated by a pending lawsuit.

This one, filed by firefighters in 2017, is currently in the appeals courts. The City of Houston wants a judge to clarify state law governing collective bargaining contracts. The union describes it at trying to declare all of collective bargaining unconstitutional. The city rejects that claim.

There is no schedule for a ruling in that suit, which only governs firefighter pay for 2017.

The union has encouraged the city to drop its appeal.

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