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HFD ratifies deal with city

It was a close vote, but the deal they reached in March was ratified.

Union members passed the contract by a 1,560 to 1,391 vote.

The deal saves 236 firefighters from layoffs in 2012, but concessions include a two-year pay freeze and a 1 percent raise in 2014. Also under the agreement, the firefighters who leave the department will no longer receive their accrued time off paid in a lump sum, but instead spread over four years.

The ratification comes only a few days before the City Council is slated to approve Mayor Annise Parker’s $1.8 billion budget.

Parker sought to reduce the fire department’s $449 million budget by $17.7 million. Tense negotiations between the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association and the mayor on how to make those cuts have taken several months.

HPFFA President Jeff Caynon said in a prepared statement that although the union believes the deal was better than the city’s first offer, the approval was difficult.

“As the close vote indicates, our members remain concerned about the Parker Administration’s hostility toward firefighters,” Caynon stated.

Mayor Parker released this statement:

“Public safety is and always has been my number one priority for the City of Houston. This is reflected in the buget proposal City Council will vote on next week. Members of the Houston Fire Department do outstanding work for Houstonians every day. While disappointed the union’s negotiators rejected a long-term and more beneficial contract in favor of this short-term agreement with little to offer either side, I want to thank the rank and file for stepping forward to help the City with the tough economic times we are going through. Their ratification of this new contract will prevent the lay off of any additional city employees and provide significant relief to help close the books on the budget for the coming fiscal year.”

The one thing I haven’t seen in any reports about this is the length of the contract. I’m wondering when the Mayor (whether Parker or someone else) and the HPFFA will have to do this again. Be that as it may, the pieces are now all in place for Council to vote on the city’s budget on Wednesday.

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