220 Houston Firefighters Get Pink Slips
Houston, Texas – The city sent layoff notices to 220 new Houston firefighters due to the passage of Proposition B, a pay parity initiative. But, as usual, there is more to the story than firefighters losing their jobs. Cutting budgets is always a dicey issue, especially when you have 3,700 other firefighters that were hoping for a raise. And the city just sending these families an email that side your job is done on June 30 didn’t go over well.
‘Oh, and don’t forget to turn in your gear or we’ll charge you several thousand dollars.’
The Houston Fire Department will lose several units because of the layoffs, according to ABC. Fire Chief Pena says he will shift schedules, and that it won’t affect the safety of the people. But a firefighter who was sent the layoff notice disagrees:
“You have to be an idiot to believe it. It’s easy to understand the raw emotion. Even still, all he wants is to keep his job. I spent my whole life committed to helping my common man. And that’s what I want to do… (and) I want to do it here.” Unnamed firefighter, a military veteran
Prop B initiated pay parity- which means that firefighters were to be paid at the same rate as Houston police officers. The initiative would end up costing a bundle.
The City of Houston has begun emailing firefighters layoff notices. We are deeply disappointed that Samuel Peña has become the first fire chief in Houston history to willingly execute mass layoffs and demotions of firefighters. From the city’s founding to the Great Depression, to two world wars and deep downturns of the energy industry, no fire chief had taken this course of action until today. Chief Peña now is alone among all Houston fire chiefs in that dubious distinction.
“Chief Peña previously claimed he would meet face-to-face with firefighters affected by the layoffs, but he did not do so today. Instead, he sent a callous email with a link to vague job-search resources. He also did not tell our association of his intentions today when we met with him for more than an hour. At this point, the fire chief is simply enabling the mayor to further punish firefighter families and neglect the city’s fire service. The fire chief is carrying out Sylvester Turner’s slash-and-burn plan for HFD. Our world-class fire department is being destroyed by third-rate politicians with the help of Chief Peña. We also note that the Houston City Council members who knowingly voted for hundreds of firefighter layoffs and demotions – such as Martha Castex-Tatum, Robert Gallegos, David Robinson, and Karla Cisneros – did not have the courage to personally present layoff notices to targeted firefighters in their districts.
“We remind Houstonians that, contrary to what the fire chief claims, reduced fire and EMS coverage will endanger our communities. City-funded analysis confirmed in 2016 that HFD is already under- staffed and under-resourced. The forthcoming HFD personnel and service cuts – which follow a generation of neglect of HFD fleet and facilities – will only intensify risks to us and the citizens we serve.” Marty Lancton, President of the Firefighters Union
The city also sent layoff notices to 27 firefighter cadets and 47 city workers. The fire chief in Houston, Texas makes over $110,000 per year, which is 40,000 ABOVE the national average of $74,000. Mayor Sylvester Turner is the 4th highest paid mayor in the nation at $236,189. Why is it that city leaders never consider cutting their own salaries? Just a thought.
The Firefighters Union and the city have been in mediation for some time over this issue. The city claims that they should have accepted a pay raise over 3 years that would have had a price tag of around $69 Million. But with the passage of Prop B, that price went up to $98 million, according to Houstonia Magazine. The Mayor offered a 9.5% raise over 5 years, but that was rejected by the union. They don’t want to raise taxes, a move which could cause political backlash.
Featured photo: Houston Fire Department, Station 7 – screenshot via enacademic.com