Mar 15, 2024 - News

Whitmire releases firefighter back pay plan

Mayor John Whitmire shakes hands with a firefighter

Photo: Jason Fochtman/Houston Chronicle via Getty Images

Houston firefighters will receive back pay and new benefits if a judge approves a tentative agreement between Mayor John Whitmire and the city's firefighters' union.

Why it matters: Under the agreement, the city would pay $650 million over the next five years as Houston grapples with a budget shortfall and tough decisions ahead of the upcoming fiscal year, which starts in July.

Driving the news: Firefighters, including retired firefighters and families of those who have died since 2017, would receive lump sum payments for wages owed since 2017.

  • Firefighters would also receive a 34% raise over the next five years as well as bonuses, holiday pay and increased uniform allowances.

What they're saying: "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 said in a statement.

  • "I want to reiterate that it helps avoid further unnecessary litigation costs, the uncertainty of multiple decisions by a court or an arbitration panel, and allows us to move forward together."

Flashback: Voters approved pay parity in 2018, the year after the union's contract expired.

  • The contract has not been renewed since, all while Houston firefighters have been earning less than their counterparts in Austin and Dallas.
  • The city and firefighters' union have been locked in a bitter legal battle.

Yes, but: Whitmire, whose campaign was backed by the union, promised that ending the lawsuit and contract stalemate would be one of his top priorities when he took office.

  • Days into his tenure, Whitmire began working with the union on the agreement.

What's next: A judge will review the agreement Monday.

  • The city expects the judge to decide on the agreement next week.

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