SAN ANTONIO - For the ninth time, the city has sent a certified letter to attorneys representing the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association to request the union meet with city negotiators to come up with a new contract between the parties.
Mayor Ron Nirenberg made the announcement Wednesday during a press conference at city hall.
Nirenberg spoke from behind a podium with a large illuminated clock on top of it. In bright red numbers, the clock showed the number of days and hours — and counting — that have passed since the fire union contract expired on Sept. 30, 2014.
“The clock is ticking still — 1,254 days later," Nirenberg said.
A court-ordered mediation ended in an impasse last year after the mediator determined the two parties could not reach a deal.
Nirenberg said Wednesday that union president, Chris Steele, has left $20 million in potential pay raises for firefighters on the table by refusing to negotiate.
“I think the public needs to understand what Chris Steele is saying when he says he's not coming to the table to negotiate,” said Nirenberg. “What he's doing is he's holding this entire public hostage; our taxpayers hostage, at the same time, his very own members that are relying on him to bargain this out.”
The city’s ninth formal attempt to get the union to negotiate comes weeks after Steele and the union launched the San Antonio First campaign, a petition drive to change the city’s charter.
Steele compared the city's ninth certified letter to a man asking out a woman nine times and being denied. He liked it to stalking, saying, "You shouldn't do that."
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.
Steele emphasized his position in his written response to the city on Wednesday.
“Mr. Steele, its time to do your job and end the gamesmanship,” Nirenberg said. “Taxpayers deserve better. Our city negotiators will be waiting.”
San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association's response to the city's request for a meeting:
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