HOUSTON — Sixty-seven Houston Fire Department cadets were sent 60-day layoff notifications as a result of Proposition B.
Voters approved the law last November to make firefighter salaries comparable to their counterparts at the Houston Police Department.
Mayor Sylvester Turner, however, has cautioned that Prop B did not come with a funding source and said it would cost the city $80 million to implement the 29-percent firefighter pay raises.
The mayor said layoffs and service reductions would be necessary if Prop B could not be implemented in phases.
Turner said he offered the union both a five-year and 3 1/2-year phase-in option, which he said the union rejected.
Next week 47 municipal workers will receive notices. And on April 17, City Council will vote on layoffs of first responders, Turner said.
“Nobody wants to see public employee layoffs, but just like hard-working Houston families, the city must live within its means and reduce expenses to pay its bills when income is limited,” Turner said. “There’s no magic wand we can use to make financial challenges disappear.”
The fire union has been critical of the mayor in public statements.
Responding to the layoffs Thursday, the union representatives said the decision reflects Turner's "ineptitude, egotism, and a new depth of his vindictiveness."
The cadets had finished training but had not been sworn in yet. These same cadets filed a federal complaint against Mayor Turner and Chief Sam Pena last month citing discrimination and retaliation. Because they had not been sworn in, council approval is not needed for the layoffs.
“As the mayor knows, the announced HFD cadet layoffs are preventable," the union statement says. "We hope more Houston City Council members finally will stand up to Turner and reject his slash-and-burn plan for HFD. His next move likely will be to lay off more firefighters and close fire stations in city council districts throughout the city. In the meantime, we urge citizens to contact their City Council members about the threatened HFD cadet and firefighter layoffs.
“The consequences of Turner’s endless political and legal war on firefighters families will soon include diminished public safety – from slower response times to unavailability of critical fire and EMS resources in times of peak demand."
Union President Marty Lancton called for Mayor Turner to resign. Turner has not yet commented publicly about Thursday's layoff notices.
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