HOUSTON — Although pay raises for Houston firefighters were finally implemented six months after voters approved it, the mayor and fire union are still sparring over the new policy.
Mayor Sylvester Turner announced Friday that the city reconstructed its payroll system to accommodate Proposition B, which addressed pay parity between the city's firefighters and police officers.
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.
More than 200 firefighters received 60-day layoff notices last week. Dozens of cadets are also being laid off, along with 47 municipal workers.
Turner wanted to phase in the firefighter raises approved by voters over a five-year period to prevent layoffs. Lancton wanted a 3.5-year phase-in period.
The two sides have yet to reach an agreement.
"As Mayor, layoffs are the last resort because I know our employees work hard and they need their jobs, but until the courts rule on the validity of Proposition B, the City must move forward with its implementation," Turner said.
"These are difficult circumstances, but Houston is a city that has overcome many challenges. We must now focus on the future and on being the resilient city that we are."
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