HOUSTON – Letters were sent out Tuesday, announcing demotions for roughly 450 active and classified Houston Fire Department personnel, a letter given to KPRC showed. The letter was signed by Fire Chief Sam Pena.
The demotions were handed out in direct correlation of Proposition B, citing a "budget shortfall," according to the letter. "As a result, I am sorry to have to notify you that you will be demoted from your current rank of engineer operator to the rank of firefighter," the letter read. The demotion will be effective July 1, the letter said.
“This fire department is being gutted from the inside. The world-class fire department, the third largest municipal fire department in the nation,” said Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association President Patrick “Marty” Lancton.
Lancton said the demotions will come in waves. He said 250 will receive letters first.
In a letter Chief Pena sent out Sunday, it said the mayor had stated that “no HFD employee demoted as a result of the reduction in force will take a reduction in pay. Lancton said that is absolutely false and misleading. He said firefighters will be demoted and, in addition, won’t receive a raise.
Both Turner and Pena have said that layoffs are necessary to rollout Proposition B in the 3 1/2-year time frame that is being demanded by the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association. The firefighters’ union and some council members disagree.
I want Sylvester Turner to look at these families in the eye the first time that an apparatus is shut down and we can’t get to you because all the other units are in resource management,” Lancton said. “They’re being used and it takes us that much longer to get to you.”
The union president said anywhere from 13 to 25 units could be shut down if the layoffs go into effect June 30.
City and union leaders are expected to continue court-ordered mediation over the details of implementing the ordinance.
“There’s a mediation scheduled for tomorrow (Thursday) at 3 p.m.,” Turner said. “We continue to hope for the best. You know the city doesn’t want to lay off any person, and even though the people have been notified, we don’t want to lay off anyone so you know we’ll go tomorrow with the hope of reaching a resolution and hopefully, we can reach one.”