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Houston City Council votes to restore firefighter positions, keep cadets, reverse planned demotions

The city backed down on planned layoffs after a judge recently ruled Proposition B unconstitutional in mid-May.

Houston City Council voted unanimously to restore 220 firefighter positions, keep 66 cadets sworn in, and reverse 454 planned demotions on Wednesday morning.

The city backed down on planned layoffs after a judge recently ruled Proposition B unconstitutional in mid-May. Prop B required the city to match firefighter's pay with police officers.

Judge Tanya Garrison ruled the city can't pass a law that goes against the state's existing collective bargaining law.

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In May, Mayor Sylvester Turner said Garrison's ruling kicks in immediately and that means no more 29 percent raises for firefighters mandated by Prop B.

The Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association said the court's ruling on Prop B is a "disappointment" and filed to appeal the ruling.

The Houston Police Union responded to the ruling saying, "We are certainly pleased with Judge Garrison's decision today to rule that Proposition B is invalid and illegal. It was the HPOU's position that the existing law governing how Houston Fire Fighters negotiate their pay was in complete conflict with Prop B and the Judge agreed."

In November 2018, the police union filed a lawsuit against Prop B, saying that it was unconstitutional because it conflicts with the state’s government code, and is beyond what the Legislature intended when it enacted the Fire and Police Employment Relations Act (FPERA).

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In early May, the mayor announced that the city reconstructed its payroll system to accommodate Prop. B.

He said more than $27.4 million was issued to 3,905 firefighters in a lump sum amount to include retroactive payments from January.

But the fire union says the paychecks were still wrong and the city cannot account for what was (or was not) paid.

"Sylvester Turner still refuses to disclose whether, how and when he will fully equalize pay and incentives for Houston fire and police as voters directed six months ago in the election," fire union president Marty Lancton said.

Turner, however, has said Prop B did not come with a funding source and with the city under a revenue cap, it would have to layoff employees and eliminate vacant positions to fund what he has called a "very bad financial policy for the city."

Lancton said Turner is a dishonest politician intent on destroying the fire department and punishing firefighters' families. While the mayor stressed the importance of all city employees.

Turner said firefighters deserve a pay raise that the city can afford, and the city will negotiate.

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