HOUSTON – The union representing Houston’s firefighters provided an update Monday to its efforts to put the issue of pay parity before voters.
Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association President Marty Lancton announced that 32,000 validated signatures had been gathered during a petition drive. He said that 50 percent more signatures had been collected than are required to put a measure on the ballot.
"Election experts tell us that this is one of the most successful and fastest petition drives in Texas history," Lancton said.
When the news conference ended, people carried boxes Lancton said contained the signed petitions to the city secretary's office
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner issued the following statement:
"Firefighters deserve a pay raise. They initially demanded 21 percent, then 17 percent. The City, hoping to end the impasse with the Firefighters, offered 9.5 percent, which will stretch the city's financial capability. The Association turned down that offer and continues to demand what the city cannot pay. Now the Association is asking voters to sign a petition calling for parity between police and fire. But their structures and benefits are very different. The number of days they work per month, command staff, overtime pay and benefits are not the same and have differed over the last 15 years. What they are asking voters to sign is ill-defined and making the most simplistic assumptions could cost the city more than $40 million. That would force the city to schedule layoffs in all department areas or further delay maintenance on buildings and purchase schedules for much needed equipment. The City appreciates and respects every fire fighter, but the demands of their union leadership will financially cripple the City, absent removing the revenue cap and a further tax increase."
At a rally last week, the group said the issue is about basic fairness.
The police union said it estimates parity would cost the city up to $40 million for the salaries.