Houston firefighters union votes down tentative agreement on new contract

By Mark Boyle - Reporter

HOUSTON - Just one week after the mayor reached a tentative agreement with the Houston Fire Department's union on a new contract, the union voted it down by an overwhelming margin.

The Houston Professional Firefighters Association tells Local 2 that more than 93 percent of its members voted against the tentative agreement for a new 30-month contract between the HPFA and the city of Houston.

The union says 2,709 firefighters voted against, with just 207 voting for the contract.

"I'm very optimistic that we will go back to the table once I talk with the firefighters and get a better understanding of where the breakdown was and where we're going to fix these problems," HPFA President Bryan Sky-Eagle said.

Sources say what the city offered in the deal may be the best offer.

According to a memo from the fire chief to the city, there is now a possibility of going from a 4-shift schedule to a 3-shift schedule to bring staffing levels to the appropriate level. But the union worries there could be layoffs if that happens.

The fire chief says that would not have a negative impact on safety or service. The biggest difference between a 3-shift schedule verses a 4-shift is that the 3-shift requires less manpower. He says there would not be a staffing shortage anymore and the department would have the appropriate number of firefighters.

Some of the issues with the offered contract include concessions that were too high, restrictions on guaranteed holidays and vacations were too high and the overall benefits were lacking, according to Sky-Eagle.

Now it's back to the drawing board, with the current contract set to expire on June 30. Another contract will now be worked on and another vote could happen in a month or two.

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