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Houston to Pay $650 Million in Back Pay to Firefighters Following Landmark Agreement

In a significant development for the city of Houston, officials have announced plans to allocate $650 million in back pay to firefighters for the eight years they worked without a contract, marking a pivotal moment in resolving a long-standing dispute.

The settlement terms, disclosed in a news release on March 14, encompass all current firefighters, retired firefighters, and families of firefighters who have passed away since 2017. These groups are slated to receive lump sum payments for wages owed dating back to 2017.

In addition to addressing the backlog of back pay, the agreement holds several other notable provisions, including:

  • Permanently establishing the temporary 18% pay increases granted to firefighters in 2021.
  • Mandating additional raises of 10%, effective July 1.
  • Instituting a five-year contract to govern future engagements.
  • Implementing measures to facilitate the seamless transfer of firefighters from other area departments.
  • Preserving existing benefits for firefighters while introducing new incentives, assignment bonuses, holiday pay, and an increased uniform allowance.

Mayor John Whitmire, who announced a tentative agreement on March 1, underscored the necessity of honoring the commitment to prioritize public safety. “An agreement of this nature is absolutely necessary to recruit and retain firefighters in the quality and numbers needed to serve the largest city in Texas,” Whitmire emphasized.

The financial implications of the settlement, totaling $650 million, will be shouldered by the city of Houston through judgment bonds. Explaining the rationale behind this decision, Whitmire emphasized the importance of avoiding further litigation costs and fostering a collaborative path forward with the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association (HPFFA).

HPFFA President Patrick Lancton hailed the agreement as unprecedented, highlighting Mayor Whitmire’s leadership and cooperation in reaching a resolution. “The victory belongs to every Houston firefighter who has sacrificed for the last eight years,” Lancton remarked, underscoring the unity that propelled the negotiations forward.

Looking ahead, legal representatives for both the city and HPFFA are scheduled to present a proposed settlement and judgment to the presiding judge on March 18. A joint news conference featuring Mayor Whitmire and President Lancton will follow the court’s action, although specifics regarding the time and location of the conference are yet to be announced.