HFD Chief Sam Peña: Houston firefighters to receive minimum 18% pay raise over next 3 fiscal years

Houston firefighters to receive 18% pay raise over 3 years
Houston firefighters to receive 18% pay raise over 3 years

HOUSTON – Houston Fire Chief Samuel Peña said firefighters are receiving a minimum 18% pay raise to keep talent and be competitive among cities across the nation.

Pena said the effort stemmed from a total compensation study commissioned by the city, which showed the city was behind in the market.

The pay increases -- for every rank in the department -- are addressed in City Council Agenda Item 11 Ordinance and are expected to roll out over the next three fiscal years -- 2022, 2023 and 2024 with the first 6% increase scheduled for Thursday.

“This has been something that we’ve needed for a long time. We want to be competitive in our industry and this put’s us on the right path,” said Chief Pena.

Captains are expected to receive a higher increase of about .66% over the years, Peña said.

“Let there be no mistake about this,” Peña said. “This is an 18% pay raise for Houston firefighters. This was adopted today by ordinance this is going to exist in the city’s budget but what this does right now gives the city three fiscal years to essentially adjust the priorities so we can incorporate these pay raises appropriately. When the union comes back to the table for bargaining, they’re going to accrue an additional obligation but for this moment, right now, this is an 18% pay raise that is going to exist in the city’s budget. It was adopted for fiscal year 2022. The same thing will happen in fiscal year 2023 and 2024.

The Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association released the following statement on Wednesday prior to Pena’s remarks:

Placing credit where credit is due, the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association today thanked Congress and the International Association of Firefighters for their work to secure funding so Houston firefighters can have a temporary pay bump while their fight for a permanent contract continues.

“Let there be no misunderstanding, these are not permanent raises. They are temporary bonuses funded with temporary dollars provided through the American Rescue Plan Act,” said HPFFA President Patrick M. “Marty” Lancton. “While grateful for the money from the federal government, Houston firefighters and their families want, need and deserve the security that comes with a binding labor contract.”

Faced with dwindling legal options in his taxpayer-funded vendetta against Houston firefighters, Mayor Sylvester Turner agreed to use the federal stimulus money to provide the temporary pay hikes. The decision followed a 14th Texas Court of Appeals ruling upholding the state’s collective bargaining law under which Houston firefighters have the right to collectively bargain labor contracts. For four years, Turner has refused to recognize that long-standing voter-approved right. He is now wasting more taxpayer money by taking his case to the Texas Supreme Court.

“The mayor is using some clever political spin to try to convince the public he has solved everything when he has not,” said Lancton. “This doesn’t come close to resolving the past liability necessary to make our fighters whole under the law. In addition to guaranteeing the increased pay, there are more than 40 other issues related to health and safety, insurance and more that are still not resolved. Our proposed city charter amendment requiring binding arbitration using an independent third party is a fair and cost-effective way to end this four-year war against us.”

Firefighters are in the final days of gathering the 20,000 signatures needed to place the charter amendment on the ballot for November. They expect to hand the petitions over to the city secretary for validation in the coming days.

District C Councilmember Abbie Kamin released the following statement:

“A pay raise for our firefighters is the right thing to do. A minimum of 18% over three years, where first-year cadets will see an $8,000 increase the first year, is the investment we should be making in those who courageously serve our city. We are also investing in new equipment and technology to meet the health and safety needs of the department and our city. While this is important, we do need to look ahead to the budgetary implications down the road.”

Federal firefighters are getting a pay raise to at least $15 an hour, NBC News reported. Firefighters currently make $13 an hour.

The formal announcement of the pay hike, coming at first in the form of a bonus, will come later Wednesday.

A senior administration official told NBC News the White House will work with Congress to make the pay increase permanent. The news comes ahead of a meeting between the president, governors, cabinet members and business leaders today to discuss how the nation can better prepare for wildfires.

About the Author:

Amanda Cochran is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. She specializes in Texas features, social media news and local crime.