Firefighters asking for voters to approve parity with police officer salaries

HOUSTON – Houston firefighters are in search of higher pay.

It's part of a "firefighter pay initiative" launched by the firefighters' union.

As we first told you last week, Houston firefighters want pay parity with the city's police.

They're circulating petitions to try to get the parity issue on the November ballot so voters can decide.

Firefighters began collecting signatures Saturday.

The Houston firefighters association says it's about basic fairness.

“We're both public safety employees; we both respond to the same kinds of calls. Firefighters of Houston put lives on (the) line every day,” said Marty Lancton, of the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association. “But in their quest for parity, firefighters aren't getting support from Houston police. The police union supports a pay raise for firefighters, but not based on police pay.”

“We believe they should be compared to firefighters in Dallas, Austin (and) San Antonio just as we compare ourselves to Dallas, Austin, Fort Worth and San Antonio,” Ray Hunt, with the Houston Police Officers Union, said.

The police union figures pay parity would cost the city up to $40 million more for salaries.

That's partially because the Fire Department employs 100 more middle and upper managers than the Police Department does.

But firefighters don't concede that number, arguing the Fire Department already takes in enough to pay for it.

In the last fiscal year, the department earned about $12 million in ambulance, inspection and permitting fees. That's almost a 30 percent increase over the year before.

“The Fire Department increased billing by $33 million in one fiscal year to help the city and not a dime was put back into the fire department," Lancton said.

That hasn't convinced city officials so far. And with contract talks stalled and now in court, the firefighters want the voters to weigh in.

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