HOUSTON — The clock is ticking toward Wednesday’s vote at City Hall to lay off 220 Houston firefighters.
On Tuesday, for the second straight day, the mayor, fire union and police union worked with an outside mediator to work out a deal and avoid layoffs. It’s all part of the ongoing battle to implement Proposition B.
Because of confidentiality agreements, none of the parties involved can disclose what’s being said during the talks.
KHOU 11 Reporter Adam Bennett spoke to Mayor Turner briefly as he walked out of the Montrose law office where mediation was taking place and when asked whether a deal had been reached on Prop B, he responded, "Not looking good."
During Tuesday afternoon’s public comment period, members of the city’s municipal employees union pleaded with city council to reconsider layoffs.
“Our public employees are what keeps the system running and layoffs would put that system in jeopardy,” said Sheila Bell, a 911 supervisor.
That union has also started an online petition.
So far, the city has given 60-day notices to 47 municipal workers and 67 fire cadets already trained but not yet sworn in.
The fire union has already agreed to a three-and-a-half-year phase-in plan, while Mayor Turner and the city said a five-year-plan is the only way to prevent any layoffs.
“We need to do what we need to do to save these people from losing their jobs and not rush to lay these people off,” said Council Member Dwight Boykins on Tuesday.
Council Member Boykins, who previously delayed the layoff vote by one week, said if mediation hasn’t resolved the issue by Wednesday, he’ll ask the mayor to refer it back to his administration.
“It wouldn’t make sense to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on firefighters and their careers and city employees when the mediator can solve the problem or help solve the problem the very next day,” said Boykins.
If no deal is reached Tuesday, the parties won’t meet again for mediation until Monday, April 29.
Even if council members vote for layoffs Wednesday, the layoffs could be pulled back if a deal is reached later.