Empty chairs mark city's 9th attempt at negotiating with fire union

Union reps decline invitation over city's pending lawsuit against them

By Van Darden - Managing Editor, Myra Arthur - Anchor/Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - A room full of empty chairs at City Hall marked what officials with the city of San Antonio say is the ninth time officials have attempted to negotiate with the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association over contract disputes.

The Tuesday no-show was not a surprise, however — members of the fire union let the city know beforehand they were not going to attend the meeting because of the city’s pending lawsuit against them.

The city says they have invited fire union officials for contract negotiations eight other times since their contract expired in September 2014.

“The lawsuit is not an excuse, and it's also not a deterrent,” Jeff Coyle, director of the Government and Public Affairs Department, said. “The Texas Supreme Court is not likely to rule on the constitutionality for at least a year, so there's plenty of time for us to sit at that table and work out a solution.”

The city issued the most recent certified letter to attorneys representing the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association on March 7.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg held a press conference that day in front of City Hall. A large, illuminated clock behind him showed the number of days and hours that have passed since the fire union contract expired on Sept. 30, 2014.

“The clock is ticking still — 1,254 days later," Nirenberg said that afternoon.

A court-ordered mediation ended in an impasse last year after the mediator determined the two parties could not reach a deal.

Nirenberg said at the press conference that union President Chris Steele has left $20 million in potential pay raises for firefighters on the table by refusing to negotiate.

Steele has repeatedly said the union will not negotiate with the city so long as the city is suing the union, challenging the evergreen clause in the now-expired contract. The clause allows firefighters to continue working with the terms of the old deal still in place.

With additional reporting by Myra Arthur.

Fire Union's Response to the City

 

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