Firefighter back pay update

Just tell me what the bill’s gonna be.

Mayor John Whitmire

The city of Houston and its firefighters are nearing an agreement to resolve their bitter, yearslong pay dispute, with specifics expected to take additional weeks or months to finalize, according to city and union officials.

The city typically renegotiates contracts with the firefighters union every few years, but the two parties were unable to reach an agreement in 2017, leading to an ongoing legal battle and leaving the firefighters without a contract ever since.

Mayor John Whitmire’s administration previously set an end-of-February deadline to resolve all aspects of the dispute and outline a plan to finance the substantial payments. While both sides expressed satisfaction with the progress of the negotiations, Whitmire acknowledged the city is unlikely to meet this target.

“The negotiations are complicated and ongoing,” Whitmire said. “We are taking additional time to gather the necessary information and reach a successful conclusion: the best outcome for the City of Houston and our firefighters.”

Still, both City Attorney Arturo Michel and firefighters union president Marty Lancton told the Chronicle they are hopeful they can finalize basic terms in the coming days, possibly at their next meeting Thursday afternoon.

These terms will cover the total back pay the city will pay to firefighters split into broad categories such as base pay, special pay and interest. They will also likely touch on their future contracts for the next three years, according to Michel. However, developing the agreement to the extent that firefighters of various classifications know their exact compensation may take two to three more months, he said.


The Greater Houston Partnership recently estimated the back pay owed to firefighters could cost the city between $500 million and $600 million. Michel said covering these costs would likely involve a mix of general fund dollars and debt issuance. He added that depending on the bond type, its issuance may require approval from a judge or a referendum from voters.

See here for the previous update. How we pay for this will be almost as important as how much we pay. I figure it would complicate things greatly if a future referendum on bonds for the back payments fails to pass. I think the odds of that are very low, but I do hope someone contemplates a Plan B for just in case. You never know.

UPDATE: Last night around 8:30 PM this hit my inbox.

The City of Houston and the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association have reached a tentative agreement that will resolve all outstanding pay issues for Houston firefighters dating back to 2017. The announcement comes just seven weeks into Mayor John Whitmire’s term.

“A world-class city like Houston deserves a well-funded fire department to attract and retain talented individuals who are willing to risk their safety for us during our times of need,” said Mayor Whitmire. “Houston’s fire department should be at or near the top among the major cities in our state. This agreement resolves a long – festering pay dispute with firefighters, avoids further unnecessary litigation costs, and allows us to move forward together.”

The Mayor’s sentiments reflect his views to assist and support all City departments and employees. Mayor Whitmire urges “all Houstonians to support every effort to fund public safety in Houston.”

“During my campaign, I committed to Houstonians that I would resolve this issue beginning on my first day in office. I am pleased that we have reached this tentative agreement within the first two months. I will ask City Council members and all Houstonians to support this arrangement once final details are settled with our partners at the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association.”

Mayor Whitmire also noted that each side made important compromises to reach this agreement and thanked both parties for their efforts over the last two months.

No details in this or the identical press release from the HPFFA that I also received. I’m sure we’ll learn more soon enough. Congratulations on getting to an agreement. Now we await the price tag.

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One Response to Firefighter back pay update

  1. David Fagan says:

    Been a long time coming…….. umpteen days and don’t have to count anymore……..

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