The Houston firefighters union and Mayor Sylvester Turner’s administration will return to mediation Aug. 1 in the hopes of working out a new contract amid a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Proposition B.
The ballot measure, which grants firefighters the same pay as police of similar rank and experience, passed last November but was struck down by a state district judge who ruled it unconstitutional and void. The Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association appealed the ruling, sending the case to Texas’ 14th Court of Appeals.
Last month, the appeals court ordered the city and fire union to hold talks within 60 days. The union announced Wednesday the parties had agreed to hold the mediation session Aug. 1, which a spokesperson for the mayor confirmed. The two sides also agreed to have Houston attorney Daryl Bristow serve as mediator.
The lawsuit was filed by the Houston Police Officers’ Union, who also sued the city. The city later filed its own claim in the case alleging Prop B is unconstitutional.
Before striking down Prop B in May, state District Judge Tanya Garrison ordered the city, firefighters and the police union into mediation, but they were unable to strike a deal.
The fire union and city also tried to settle contract talks in a June 2017 mediation session, but the talks stalled and the union sued the city in a separate lawsuit that also is before the 14th Court of Appeals.
Asked Wednesday if there was any reason to expect a deal on the third mediation attempt, Turner repeated his claim that the firefighters deserve a pay raise “the city can afford” and said he would seek to reach a deal.
“The resolution has to be one that’s good for the people of the city of Houston,” Turner said.
The mayor has rejected firefighters’ request to settle the dispute in arbitration. When Turner shot down that request in May, fire union President Marty Lancton called arbitration a “sensible solution.”
On Wednesday, Lancton again questioned Turner’s willingness to strike a deal with the fire union.
“Houston firefighters remain open to working with the city, but so far, the mayor has rejected every sensible offer — in court, in several rounds of mediation, and in previous contract negotiations,” Lancton said in a statement. “We hope this latest mediation with Mr. Bristow changes the situation, but it’s clear the mayor remains focused on punishing Houston firefighter families in defiance of the will of Houston voters.”
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