Nirenberg Invites Firefighters Union to Restart Bargaining Sessions

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Mayor Ron Nirenberg asks the San Antonio Professional Fire Fighters Union to join in contract negotiations as he stands behind a time clock marking the time since the last contract expired.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Standing behind a counter marking the days since a labor deal expired, Mayor Ron Nirenberg asks the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Union to resume contract negotiations with the City.

With 1,254 days having passed since the City of San Antonio's labor contract with its firefighters union expired, Mayor Ron Nirenberg said Wednesday that the City sent its ninth formal request for the union to return to the bargaining table.

"The City has been ready to negotiate a new agreement since 2014, and the City continues to stand ready to negotiate a deal now," said Nirenberg, standing behind a digital counter showing the time that has elapsed since the labor deal expired on Sept. 30, 2014.

His remarks came as the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association circulates three petitions aimed at reforming the City's charter. Nirenberg has said the changes, if enacted, would be "terrible" for the city, a claim Councilman Greg Brockhouse (D6) has characterized as a "scare tactic."

The labor pact between the City and union currently operates on its so-called evergreen clause following the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement. Under the clause, wages, health care, and other key contract elements can remain in effect for 10 years after a labor deal's expiration. The City filed suit over the constitutionality of the clause and is waiting to see whether or not the Texas Supreme Court will hear its appeal.

With firefighters having not received pay raises since the contract's expiration, Nirenberg pointed out that they have left on the table nearly $6 million in pay increases, the amount available if the union had negotiated a contract with a 3 percent annual pay raise.

One of the three petitions circulated by the union seeks to cap any future city manager's tenure to eight years and his or her salary to 10 times that of the lowest-paid city employee. Another petition would give the union unilateral authority to force the City into binding arbitration should other avenues to negotiate contracts fail. The third petition would change requirements for citizen-led referendums, giving voters a say in passing specific ordinances such as public utility rate increases.

The three petitions went into circulation two weeks ago, and union officials sought petition signatures near early voting polling sites. The union has not provided signature totals to the Rivard Report, which has made multiple requests. Brockhouse, a former spokesman for the firefighters union, previously said the group almost certainly will receive the 20,000 signatures necessary to put the propositions to a municipal vote.

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