Mayor: City, HFD union reach tentative agreement on new contract

By Samantha Ptashkin - Reporter

HOUSTON - After months of contentious negotiations, Mayor Annise Parker says the city has reached a tentative agreement with the Houston Fire Department's union on a new contract.

The tentative agreement is for a new 30-month contract between the Houston Professional Firefighters Association and the city of Houston. Under the agreement, the mayor says firefighters will receive four percent across the board pay increases on Jan. 1, 2015. 

Talks broke off between the two sides in early May when they reached an impasse.

The agreement must still be ratified by the union membership and the Houston City Council.

"This is the product of give and take on both sides," said Mayor Parker. "It includes concessions that will help the city with the financial challenges that lie ahead.  It is the second salary contract I have successfully negotiated with Local 341.  It will provide a solid framework for negotiations with the police and municipal unions over the next year.  Firefighters understand what we are facing and have stepped up to help.  I want to acknowledge that and say thank you."

"The proposed contract provides a base salary increase and contractually binds the city to the 4-Shift work model and critical minimum staffing levels while also ensuring that vendors are in place to allow firefighters to purchase uniforms and equipment that will enable them to better serve the community," said Bryan Sky-Eagle, President of the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association, IAFF Local 341. "Houston firefighters always put the public good before themselves and this contract is another example of that selflessness.  I encourage a favorable vote for the contract and its concessions."

The HFD pension board released a statement about the mayor's announcement:

"The pension board strongly opposes this tentative agreement due to the fact the Mayor's retaliatory actions aim to remove the pension chairman, Todd Clark's position from the new contract. The pension board will be encouraging members not to support the agreement as it will put their pensions at risk."

According to the mayor's office, some of the key provisions are:

  • A 10 percent reduction in the number of firefighters approved for vacation each day beginning in January 2015
  • The elimination of a District vacation bank policy that allowed firefighters access to the unused vacation days of their coworkers, thus limiting each firefighter to the number of vacation days he/she has personally accrued.
  • New restrictions capping the number of firefighters off for guaranteed holidays to five percent of minimum staffing levels, with a black out on guaranteed holidays during the peak months of July, November and December of 2014 and 2015.
  • The opportunity to sell back unused accrued benefit leave time
  • Creation of an attendance review board to recommend actions for excessive use of unscheduled absences
  • Assurances that the city will not privatize or civilianize EMS functions during the term of the agreement

The current contract is set to expire on June 30. The new agreement, if ratified, would take effect on July 1, 2014, and last until Dec. 30, 2016.

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