SAN ANTONIO – The Fourth Court of Appeals on Thursday ordered the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association and the city of San Antonio to begin mediation on the constitutionality of evergreen clause in the fire union's now-expired contract.
The mediation order comes after the city appealed its lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the 10-year "evergreen clause."
"This is progress for the city, our taxpayers and the fire personnel who work hard to serve the San Antonio community," city manager Sheryl Sculley said in a statement. "We are happy the court recognized the city's willingness to negotiate and ordered the union to come to the table."
According to the order, the two sides must agree on a mediator within one week, or the court will appoint one and they must begin mediation within 60 days.
The fire union's collective bargaining agreement with the city expired Sept. 30, 2014, but because of a 10-year "evergreen clause" in the contract, the terms and benefits continue until 2024.
The city formally requested the fire union to begin negotiations eight times in the last three years. The union has refused the offers.
The mayor and city council have directed the city's bargaining team to keep public safety spending at less than 66 percent of the general fund budget.
The city reached a mediated settlement with the police union earlier this year that gave all officers pay raises and for the first time have them contribute to the cost of providing healthcare for their families.
SAPFFA president Christopher Steele said the union looks forward to finding a resolution with the city.
"As the parties wait for the ruling from the Court, the Court has ordered both parties to mediation," Steele said. "We look forward to it."
SAPFFA said a judge did not rule over the mediation on Thursday.