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Monday, May 16, 2011


The City of Houston and the Firefighters' Union have been in negotiations to save more than 200 firefighters' jobs for a week now.

Apparently, those negotiations hit a stumbling block last Friday.

Jeff Caynon who's the President of the Firefighters' union sent out the following email Monday telling his membership to brace for layoffs.

Caynon said two weeks ago at least 238 firefighters could be laid off as a result of the city's ongoing budget problems.

Mayor Annise Parker is scheduled to address this issue at 2:30 pm Monday. We'll keep you updated!

The letter to Houston Firefighters:

Alert: Update on Negotiations with the City

The collective bargaining negotiations with the City stalled late yesterday. After weeks of negotiations, we believed late Wednesday we were close to a tentative five-year agreement. We were a only few million dollars apart in negotiations over the multi-year, multi-billion-dollar HFD budget. Our bargaining team was prepared to tentatively agree to essentially freeze salaries for two years and then increase them by 2 percent in the third, fourth and fifth years with a wage opener in the third year. Most importantly, we were close to preventing firefighter layoffs. Considering the challenging economic times, the evolving agreement sensibly balanced the workplace safety and compensation needs of firefighters with those of the city and taxpayers.

When we resumed negotiations yesterday, however, the City inexplicably reversed course. Mayor Parker's team sought new "permanent" concessions that extended well beyond the likely period of the immediate budget "crisis" and withdrew no-layoff guarantees -- even after firefighters' recent budget and pension concessions totaled tens of millions of dollars. The deteriorating tone of the negotiations raises serious questions about the mayor's public safety commitment and whether the City has been negotiating in good faith at all.

We will resume negotiations with the City as soon as possible, but the practical effect of the City's move yesterday is that they ran out the clock on negotiations before the Tuesday budget deadline because of the 72-hour meeting posting requirement. We now expect the Parker Administration to begin issuing unprecedented 45-day layoff notices to firefighters as early as Tuesday. We will continue to fight hard for these jobs in negotiations in the weeks ahead.

Our team, which has negotiated multiple collective bargaining agreements with the City through the years, suspects the mayor and her City Attorney, David Feldman, are attempting to roll back decades of hard-fought protections for Houston firefighters with a risky divide-and-conquer strategy. We're confident we will withstand the mayor's latest attack on firefighters and we encourage you to stand united with your HFD brothers and sisters during this challenging time. We will continue to update you as developments occur.

Jeff Caynon- President Local 341

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