By Pilar Arias
The battle between the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association and the city continues to heat up following a court ruling announced Wednesday.
“If the city drops the lawsuit now after our second win and stop wasting taxpayers dollars then we’re willing to go to the table to negotiate within seven days,” firefighters association President Chris Steele said.
The Fourth Court of Appeals has upheld what’s called the “evergreen clause” part of the collective bargaining agreement.
The fire union and city haven’t been able to come up with a new agreement in nearly three years.
Mayor Ron Nirenberg released the following statement via email:
“While the judges disagreed with the city’s position that the so-called ‘evergreen clause’ violated the State Constitution, I remain confident that the city’s position will be upheld by the Texas Supreme Court. We recognize and applaud the hard work of our firefighters, who risk their lives to keep our residents safe. The evergreen clause, however, inhibits negotiations for new agreements and forces the city to provide benefits that threaten to overwhelm the city budget. This restricts our ability to provide other important city services. The evergreen clause eliminates any urgency to strike a new deal that is more fair and balanced for all. This case is not a trivial matter, as it affects how the city spends almost $800 million each year in public safety. It immediately impacts the pay and benefits of our firefighters, and the use of San Antonians’ hard-earned tax dollars. The city will and must — on behalf of our taxpayers — pursue this case to its conclusion. Unfortunately, we are at this point to due to past decisions that did not envision today’s fiscal reality. I am committed to ensuring that the city’s future contracts with public safety unions are legal, constitutional and fair to all involved. We will continue to work toward a swift resolution to these contract negotiations.”
The ruling handed down reads, “We conclude the evergreen clause is simply a duration term; it does not, in and of itself, create any debt.”
The firefighters association is calling for the city to release the tapes of mediation sessions from earlier this year.