The Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner will re-enter court-ordered mediation Aug. 1 in an attempt at resolving the parties’ dispute over Proposition B, both parties confirmed July 17.
The voter-approved proposition, which mandates pay parity between Houston police officers and Houston firefighters, has been caught up in legal challenges since shortly after it passed in November 2018.
A state appeals court ordered both parties into mediation June 13 despite the fact that an earlier round of mediation, ordered by a separate judge, ended unsuccessfully in May.
The mediation will be led by Houston attorney Daryl Bristow, a mediator mutually agreed upon by both parties.
The city issued $17 million in back pay to Houston firefighters in May to comply with Proposition B. When the proposition was struck down as unconstitutional, the city did not rescind the pay. However, if the proposition is unsuccessful in appeals court, the city may have to rescind the pay. The status of the back pay will be a new factor in the upcoming negotiations, Turner said.
“The city has always said that the firefighters are deserving of a raise that the city can afford. We’re looking forward to it. It’s good for the city of Houston; it’s good for the firefighters; it’s good for everyone involved,” he said. “… The firefighters are currently holding onto $17 million that was based on Proposition B that is no more. The city hasn’t asked them to pay it back. We are not going to claw it back at this point in time. We’ve done everything we can to be understanding and to be sensitive, and so if a resolution can be had we welcome that.”
HPFFA President Marty Lancton issued a statement following the announcement July 17.
“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,” the statement read. “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.”