HOUSTON — Prop B mediation got underway Monday afternoon in Midtown.
The city, fire union and police union huddled together in the same room trying to hash out a deal to avoid layoffs.
"We welcome the judge's order to resolve this and to have a neutral third party, somebody who is willing to get in there, let's get our hands dirty," said Marty Lancton, President of the Houston Professional Firefighters Association.
But hours before mediation, council members, alongside laid-off city workers publicly pleaded with firefighters and their union to accept the 5-year plan to phase in voter-approved Prop B raises.
"Firefighters deserve a pay raise but not at the expense of innocent municipal employees," said council member Robert Gallegos.
Those impacted by layoffs spoke publicly about the impact of further cuts.
"I am begging those union leaders, you already got this, accept the five year plan, what's holding you back?" said Dr. Teresita Ladrillo, who overseas the Houston Health Department's Bureau of Oral Health. "Do no allow other people to be laid off because you want this all right now."
The city has already sent pink slips to 67 fire cadets not yet sworn in, along with 47 municipal workers.
"Some of them have worked for the city for twenty years," said Ladrillo. "They're coming up to me and asking 'where will I go?'"
The fire union has already agreed to a three and a half year phase in plan. Mayor Turner and the city said a five-year-plan is the only way to prevent any layoffs.
"What we don't want to do is set the tone where we layoff people," said council member Jerry Davis.
Looming large over negotiations is a scheduled vote in city council to layoff 220 more firefighters on Wednesday.
"287 firefighters and their families are being threatened," said Lancton. "That's not how you lead."
Lancton said the city keeps moving the goal posts.
"It was the Mayor who asked us to take the three and a half year deal," said Lancton. "And now his political talking points have changed."
Still Lancton says they're ready to sit around a table to try and reach a deal, no matter how long it takes.
"We will work 24 hours a day to get a resolution and we hope that's what the city's commitment is," said Lancton.
Day 2 of mediation is already scheduled for Tuesday.
Even if council members vote for layoffs Wednesday, and a deal is reached later, the layoffs could be pulled back.