Mayor John Whitmire, freshly sworn in, has announced the commencement of negotiations on Wednesday regarding the contentious issue of Houston firefighters’ pay. The long-standing dispute, marked by legal battles and controversy over Prop B, is set to enter a new phase under Whitmire’s administration.
During his inauguration party at the George R. Brown Convention Center on Tuesday night, Whitmire addressed the crowd, emphasizing his commitment to resolving the pay dispute that has plagued the city for years. He announced the start of negotiations with the firefighters’ union at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, marking a significant development in a conflict that has lingered for seven years without a contract.
The mayor acknowledged the financial strain on taxpayers due to the legal back-and-forth between the city and the firefighters’ union. Whitmire expressed his determination to find a solution without resorting to further lawsuits, signaling a shift from the protracted legal battles that characterized the previous years.
“We are going to negotiate. We’re going to get out of the courthouse. You know we shouldn’t resolve our differences in court. It should be done in the mayor’s office. It ought to be fair to Houstonians, and it ought to be fair to the firefighters,” stated Whitmire, highlighting his commitment to a fair resolution.
Houston Professional Firefighters Union President Patrick “Marty” Lancton echoed the sentiment, emphasizing the need to address the issue without prolonged legal wrangling. Lancton stated, “You can’t solve a problem if you don’t admit, acknowledge you have a problem. That’s step one. Step two is you can’t keep suing Houston firefighters. We’ve lost 500 in the past seven years. Unprecedented loss for public safety.”
In 2021, the city approved an 18% increase in firefighter pay over three years using federal COVID-19 relief funds. However, the union deemed it insufficient, labeling it a temporary bonus rather than a permanent raise. Former Mayor Sylvester Turner defended the decision, stating it was what the city could afford at the time.
Mayor Whitmire reiterated his disagreement with litigating against first responders and expressed his eagerness to resolve the dispute, emphasizing the importance of recruiting new firefighters for the city’s safety and well-being. The negotiations mark a pivotal moment in the ongoing battle over Houston firefighters’ contracts.