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NO SURPRISE!!!

Police Officers in the City of Houston make more base salary than Fire Fighters, a situation created when the Union failed to reach an agreement with the City (Mayor Brown) in late ’99. That broke “base pay parity” between Fire Fighters and Police Officers that had been in effect since the mid 1970’s and remains that way today. Remember, Fire Fighters work 48 hours a week and Police Officers work 40 hours per week.

Last month we learned HPD has more than 20,000 cases annually that go untouched or not investigated, due to “manpower shortages,” even while the Police Chief has more than 200 Officers on his Staff.

In the Houston Fire Department today there will not be one single EMS call or fire call that goes unanswered, everyone will be treated and every fire put out, every day of the year.

Yet the Mayor and Union have presented a “contract” that reduced available time off for fire fighters and gave them a mere 4% raise next year, all the while Houston Fire Fighters are still ranked 125th in pay scale among major cities. We are left to wonder why the contract was voted down by 93% of Fire Fighters. Time after time this Mayor has attacked the Union, and their Pension Fund. Why not treat them as good, honest employee who do and outstanding job every day for this City, and on occasion give their life in the line of duty?

A sad side note to this “contract agreement” was a memo threatening the members sent to the Mayor by the Fire Chief and leaked by the Union President during the Fire Fighters vote in which the Fire Chief threatens to use the “Management Rights Clause” to place fire Fighters on a different shift if they vote the “contract” down.

Why didn’t the Fire Chief use the “Management Rights Clause” to reduce time off and stop the overtime budget from going 10 million dollars over budget? Instead, he used “brown outs”, blamed Fire Fighters and put Fire Fighters and Citizens in harm’s way? Where is the accountability for the Fire Chief or Police Chief when these problems occur? We shouldn’t short change the Fire Fighters for using their agreed to time off and doing their job. Why would the Fire Chief and his Staff propose a “shift change” to correct a problem he and his Staff created by not watching their money. The Fire Chief should have just stepped up and said “This is my fault for not watching the budget; I take responsibility for the problem and will work to correct it in the future.”

And the Union President is not without blame either, negotiating a weak contract and leaking a memo that he knows was just a threat to sway the Members vote during the contract voting period. President Sky-Eagle will learn that the Union President position is not a dictatorship, he just drives the bus for the Members and if he makes a wrong turn, they will correct it!

Treat Fire Fighters with the respect they deserve. Don’t threaten to change their shift, “brown-out” equipment or reduce their earned time off, because management ignored a problem. Does anyone think the overtime budget was $10 million over in just one month; it took several months to reach that level? Who was minding the Store? Every time the City has a money problem they want to balance it on the back of the employees!

Both sides need to act like adults and hammer out a deal that works for everyone, not just one side!

There really shouldn’t be “No Surprise” why Houston Fire Fighters voted NO!

FORMER HOUSTON FIRE CHIEF LESTER TYRA

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