City, SA fire union unable to reach agreement on mediator

City gives update on mediation with SA Professional Firefighters Association

SAN ANTONIO – The city of San Antonio said it informed the Fourth Court of Appeals that the city and the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association could not reach agreement on a mediator within the time allotted by the court.

The current collective bargaining agreement expired in 2014, but an evergreen clause keeps the term of an old deal in place for 10 years. That clause has become a sticking point with the city and the union arguing over its constitutionality. 

The court ordered the two sides to begin mediation on the issue.

The city claims it initially proposed the same mediator who handled the settlement between the city and the police union earlier this year.

After the city exchanged a list of proposed mediators with the union, the union said that they would not agree to anyone who was not on their initial list, city officials said.

"In an effort to reach a compromise, the city tried to speak directly with the fire union's attorney, but could not get a response," the city of San Antonio said in a statement. "The city looks forward to working with a court-appointed mediator to reach agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement with the union."

The San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association's president, Christopher Steele, said he didn't think anyone the city proposed had enough experience. 

“We feel the magnitude of this case warranted the need for a mediator with former experience as a judge,” Steele said in a statement. “The city proposed three mediators that we felt did not have the prerequisite experience to mediate on this particular case, which could have repercussions for firefighters all over the state of Texas.”

According to last week's order, the two sides had to agree on a mediator within one week. If not, as has happened, the court will appoint one and the city and union begin mediation within 60 days. 

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.

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