Why can't the "public safety" mayor get an HFD deal done?
The Chronicle's Matt Stiles writes today about the city's ongoing effort to reach agreement with firefighters, who overwhelmingly rejected a labor deal rammed through after Mayor White took the negotiations public.
The story concludes with Mayor White getting the last word, and is once more heavy on quotes and light on details:
Leaders of the Houston firefighters union are seeking answers for two tough questions — why their members soundly rejected a proposed new contract, and what it might take to change their minds.
With a looming budget deadline, leaders of the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association hope to fashion a compromise with city negotiators that would be acceptable to their members, who voted nearly 2-1 earlier this month against the last negotiated proposal.
Getting there won't be easy.
The union's negotiators must push the agenda of their 3,700 members while staying mindful of city budget constraints. Their city counterparts must keep costs down while trying to sweeten the deal enough to win over a skeptical, frustrated group of firefighters.
"It is an issue of trust that has to be established," said Councilman Adrian Garcia, who's talked with numerous firefighters about perceived slights by city leaders over the years.
"You don't get to trust without good faith. I think the membership needs to be demonstrated that there is good faith coming from the administration."
It has little to do with "trust" and "good faith" and very much to do with real, concrete issues. One firefighter has commented on those issues in our forum. And actually, the Chronicle sidebar does a decent job laying out some of them:
• Overtime: Five extra 24-hour shifts a year, often filling in at unfamiliar stations.
• Pay: Decreased overtime pay, though basic pay would increase 34 percent, compounded over three years.
• Staffing: Concern about "manning" — the number of firefighters serving on each truck. The city contends the number would remain at four.
• Parity: Firefighters still would not make as much as police officers; they have been seeking that parity for years.
Manning is a huge issue. If the city isn't backtracking on that issue, then Mayor White's negotiators should put it in writing, clearly. Keeping four men on trucks is a crucial issue to firefighters and to public safety.
More broadly, if our "public safety" mayor can find the cash for Tasers, new HPD badges, and overtime pay for cops to harass downtown pedestrians, then surely he can find the cash to make a fair labor deal with our firefighters.