Mayor addresses HFD union budget talk impasse

HOUSTON – Budget negotiations between the Houston firefighters union and city leaders have reached an impasse, union leaders said Monday.

Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association President Marty Lancton said Mayor Sylvester Turner’s team walked away from negotiations Friday, and city leaders can no longer be trusted to bargain in good faith.

Houston firefighters haven't had a pay raise in three years. They've been negotiating a new contract with the city since March.

"Firefighters in Houston no longer trust Mayor Sylvester Turner," Lancton said. "He has erased 26 years of goodwill in only 16 months."

The city is offering a 2 percent pay increase annually for the next two years.

The main sticking point is over a 21.3 percent pay raise over three years for firefighters that the union is requesting, Lancton said.

[WATCH: Mayor Turner press conference on ACLU lawsuit, HFD pension reform]

Lancton said the declining condition of equipment and facilities is also a major concern.

VIDEO: Houston firefighters union discusses budget negotiations

“We are one of the worst-paid major city fire departments in the nation. In fact, some of our lowest-paid new firefighters are eligible for public assist," Marty said.

Fire cadets enter the department making about $28,000 annually.

A rookie firefighter makes about $40,000 a year.

Fire Chief Sammuel Pena said the city ended negotiations after firefighters nixed a two-week extension of talks.

Union representatives said the law allows the city and the union to participate in either mediation or arbitration. If that option is rejected by the city, the union can petition the District Court in Harris County to order a prevailing wage.

"I’m still hoping we come back to table. There are still opportunities to continue this," Pena said

He said negotiators can't be sure what the city can offer until they know if the mayor's pension reform plan will pass in the state Legislature.

'Really it’s going to be based on the outcome of what's going on in Austin where we are going to be able to evaluate as a city what resources we would have available," Pena said.

Firefighters adamantly oppose the pension plan.

They're now asking for mediation in the contract dispute. If the city doesn't agree to it, firefighters said they'll go to court.

The city has five days to accept or reject the mediation or arbitration option.

KPRC 2 has contacted city leaders, seeking comment.

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