HOUSTON-Mayor Annise Parker was joined by Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association (HPFFA) President Bryan Sky-Eagle this afternoon to announce a proposed new contract for the rank and file at the Houston Fire Department (HFD). The agreement, which still must be ratified by the union membership and approved by City Council, will replace the current contract, which is scheduled to expire June 30, 2014.
“This is the product of give and take on both sides,” said Mayor Parker. “It includes concessions that will help the city with the financial challenges that lie ahead. It is the second salary contract I have successfully negotiated with Local 341. It will provide a solid framework for negotiations with the police and municipal unions over the next year. Firefighters understand what we are facing and have stepped up to help. I want to acknowledge that and say thank you.”
Under the agreement, firefighters will receive four percent across the board pay increases on January 1, 2015. There is a provision allowing for additional negotiations starting February 2016 after the city has had the opportunity to address the revenue limitations that are expected to impact operations in the budget year that begins July 2015. There are also numerous changes regarding time off for holidays, vacations and sick time that will help provide adequate staffing and, hopefully, avoid taking fire trucks and ambulances out of service.
“I am depending on Fire Chief Terry Garrison, his command staff and the rank and file to work together to properly manage this contract,” said Parker. “Firefighters need to show good faith by showing up for work when assigned and HFD management must keep close watch on the budget. We cannot afford uncontrolled overtime costs.”
“The proposed contract provides a base salary increase and contractually binds the city to the 4-Shift work model and critical minimum staffing levels while also ensuring that vendors are in place to allow firefighters to purchase uniforms and equipment that will enable them to better serve the community,” said Bryan Sky-Eagle, President of the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association, IAFF Local 341. “Houston firefighters always put the public good before themselves and this contract is another example of that selflessness. I encourage a favorable vote for the contract and its concessions.”
The proposed contract includes more than 20 changes affecting staffing levels, leave, promotions and disciplinary actions. Some of the key provisions are:
- A 10 percent reduction in the number of firefighters approved for vacation each day beginning in January 2015
- The elimination of a District vacation bank policy that allowed firefighters access to the unused vacation days of their coworkers, thus limiting each firefighter to the number of vacation days he/she has personally accrued.
- New restrictions capping the number of firefighters off for guaranteed holidays to five percent of minimum staffing levels, with a black out on guaranteed holidays during the peak months of July, November and December of 2014 and 2015.
- The opportunity to sell back unused accrued benefit leave time
- Creation of an attendance review board to recommend actions for excessive use of unscheduled absences
- Assurances that the city will not privatize or civilianize EMS functions during the term of the agreement
Subject to the required approvals, the agreement is to become effective July 1, 2014 and last until December 31, 2016.