The City of San Antonio and San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association met for their second round of negotiations on Tuesday.
Discussion about Proposition C, communication issues and a union press conference on Monday caused some fireworks between negotiators but ultimately the city and union agreed and signed off on several initial provisions in the contract.
Prop C and how it could be used by the union and how the city would recognize it drew issues between union negotiator Ricky Poole and city Attorney Andy Segovia. The union called a press conference on Monday after sending San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg a letter asking for clarification on the city’s Prop C stance.
During negotiations, Segovia said that move was not a conductive form of communication.
“It seems like you call press conferences more often than you call me, and if we’re going to have productive discussions I think that should be the avenue of communication,” Segovia said.
Fire union negotiator Ricky Poole said he and Segovia had many calls between each other but prefers to communicate in writing.
“While I appreciate talking to you on the phone, for purposes of my client, I need to make sure I know what the position of the city is,” Poole said.
There was brief back and forth discussion on the impasse process and if the city had still had right to ask for impasse and mediation or arbitration under a state statute and how Prop C would work alongside a state statute. Segovia and Londa said both methods were options.
After the meeting, Londa wasn’t clear which option would supersede the other.
“I don’t know. I suppose there could be a case where one gets started, and it does. I just don’t know,” Londa said.
Poole acknowledged there could be some discrepancy between the two options but added that Prop C was clear.
“There is not the ability for anyone to call for impasse under Prop C other than the union,” he said. “That is a true statement, whether the city can continue to call for impasse under [the state statute] that’s not really an issue that I’ve been concerned with. I think the city may be able to do that, but our position is we just want to make sure that we’re not looking at another challenge and a three to four year hiatus while we go litigate this issue,” Poole said.
Impasse can be declared after 60 days of negotiations. The negotiations officially began on Feb. 6.
When asked if there would be a lawsuit over Prop C, Londa said, “the city is not going to file another lawsuit.”
The city had sued the union previously over a ten-year evergreen clause that’s currently in effect and allows the expired contract from 2014 to continue until 2024 or until a new agreement is signed. The city lost its lawsuit after the Texas Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from the city after an appeals court sided with the union.
There was some initial discussion about the next evergreen clause that could be included in this contract. City negotiators and attorneys initially mentioned a 60-day evergreen.
“We’ve proposed 60 days before. We think a long evergreen does not encourage a timely agreement,” Londa said, adding that 60 days may not be precisely the right number.
Poole said he couldn’t imagine the contract would go from a ten-year evergreen clause to 60 days.
“I’m happy to look at anything the city wants to put forward,” Poole said. “The police officers contract provides for an eight-year evergreen clause so I’m kind of curious why the city decided ours should be sixty days.”
Londa had said the 60 days of required negotiations before a call for impasse could potentially fit with a 60-day evergreen. But Poole disagreed, saying he doesn’t believe those two issues could be linked together.
The city and union were able to agree on five provisions and sign off on initial terms of the contract regarding non-discrimination, strikes and lockouts, that a final contract would be binding, parking, and a savings clause.
Londa and Poole said there was progress at Tuesday’s meeting with the signing of those agreements.
“It’s a good start,” Poole said.
The next meeting is Friday, Feb. 22. Both sides are expected to present initial proposals on wages and health care on Tuesday, Feb. 26.
Joey Palacios can be reached at Joey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules.