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City Extends Offer To Absent San Antonio Fire Union

Joey Palacios
Texas Public Radio
San Antonio held its eleventh open meeting but the fire union continues to decline to attend.

The city is making a contract offer to the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association in an attempt to end a four year stalemate in health care and wage negotiations,  but the fire union is not ready to consider any deals.

The proposal includes an 8 percent raise and 4 percent lump sum payment to firefighters over the next four years. It covers healthcare premiums for firefighters, but requires premiums for their spouse and children. It would eliminate the city’s contribution to the firefighter’s legal fund and it also reduces the 10-year evergreen clause to six months, a much shorter clause than was offered to police officers.

The city invited the fire union to a meeting Tuesday morning, but the fire union did not show.

“We’re done waiting,” San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said.  “We’re ready to move offers now and so we put one forward that is a fair contract.”

Fire union president Chris Steele said on “The Source”that he won’t consider the offer because he did not receive 72 hours notice before the meeting. He says that violates the Texas Open Meetings Act.

  • WATCH | San Antonio spokesman Jeff Coyle discusses the city's latest offer
The City of San Antonio makes a healthcare and wage contract proposal to the fire union. @TPRNews pic.twitter.com/nISITBBM4s — Joey Palacios (@Joeycules) March 27, 2018

“The reason I won’t entertain it is because illegal. … The law also says this negotiation is a public process. I don’t do business in secret like Ron Nirenberg,” Steele said.

The city says the meeting’s date and time was posted online in accordance with state law.

“There was nothing illegal about what the city did today,” city attorney Andy Segovia said. “We advised the union we would be making a proposal on wages and healthcare, and for the eleventh time, they refused to meet. We welcome the union’s feedback at a scheduled bargaining session.”

The offer is different than that approved by a previous City Council for the San Antonio Police Officer’s Association. The police union was offered an eight year evergreen clause while the fire union is being offered six months.

An evergreen clause allows an expired contract to continue after it runs out until a new contract is signed. The police contract ran out at the same time as the fire union in 2014 but a police contract was signed in late 2016.

“These are two very different situations,” city spokesman Jeff Coyle said. “The police union was negotiating with the city on-again off-again before the contract even expired.”

Under city’s proposal, monthly premiums for spouse and children would cost $346. That would take the city’s portion of annual healthcare costs for firefighters down from about $20,000 to $15,000 per firefighter.

Joey Palacios can be reached at joey@tpr.org and on Twitter at @joeycules

Joey Palacios can be reached atJoey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules