The latest development in the fight over implementation of the voter-approved fire fighter pay parity measure has Mayor Sylvester Turner and fire fighters heading to the mediation table despite reluctance from the administration.
Lawyers representing each group – the city, Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association, and Houston Police Officers Union – were in court on Thursday fighting over the constitutionality of Proposition B. Rather than getting the answer they sought, the judge ordered them into mediation just days ahead of council’s vote over layoffs.
Since the suit was initially brought by the Houston Police Officers Union, they were included in the mediation order. Following the judge’s order, Turner released the following statement,
“This is a non-binding court-ordered mediation among Police, Fire and the City. Though it is non-binding, the City will comply. What is important is that the mediation occur as soon as possible, preferably Monday or Tuesday (April 22-23). By law, the City budget must balance by the end of June, and where a reduction in personnel is necessary to balance the budget, employees must be given a 60day notice prior to July 1.”
The city is increasingly under a crunch to resolve this issue as budget hearings and the start of the fiscal year looms. Not to mention, there’s an upcoming election in which this issue will continue to play an oversized role.
The parties were given until noon on April 22 to agree on a mediator or the court will appoint one. While mediation is mandatory, as mentioned, it is non-binding and the final decision will still be up to the court.