And we’re on to the next phase of the firefighter pay battle.
The Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association on Tuesday asked Mayor Sylvester Turner to enter arbitration to settle its ongoing labor dispute with the city, a request the mayor shot down as he called instead for a return to collective bargaining.
The union’s request came less than a week after a state district judge ruled Proposition B unconstitutional and void. The charter amendment approved by voters last November granted firefighters the same pay as police of corresponding rank and seniority.
Turner made clear Tuesday that he does not intend to accept the union’s request.
“The city of Houston is willing to return to the table for collective bargaining which would be the regular course of business,” the mayor said in a written statement.
Fire union President Marty Lancton said the mayor had yet to contact the union about sitting down to negotiate anew. He repeatedly has questioned Turner’s claim that the city could not afford Prop B, and on Tuesday cast doubt on Turner’s willingness to negotiate a “fair raise” for firefighters.
Arbitration, Lancton contended, would resolve the pay dispute before Houston’s 2020 fiscal year starts July 1.
“This is a sensible solution,” Lancton said. “We continue to wait for the call that the mayor says he is willing to make. Let’s resolve this now, mayor.”
Turner spokeswoman Mary Benton said the union “knows how to reach the mayor,” and repeated Turner’s statement that his “door is open and he is ready and willing to meet with the fire union.”
So if I’m interpreting this correctly, the Mayor is offering to go back to the collective bargaining process, while the firefighters are saying instead let’s take our respective offers and present them to an arbitrator and let that person make the call. I’m not quite sure what to make of that. I suppose this is the HPFFA’s way of saying they trust the city to negotiate in good faith. If so, all I can say is that the city could say the same about the firefighters. Whatever the case, we’re now at a standoff about how to go about resolving the larger standoff. The firefighters can claim that they have the will of the voters on their side, but unless they win their appeal of the summary judgment declaring Prop B unconstitutional, that only means so much. In the meantime, I’m going to find my happy place and practice some deep breathing.