The Texas Supreme Court has moved one step closer to considering the City's appeal of a lawsuit filed in 2015 challenging the constitutionality of the ten year 'Evergreen Clause' that was included in the 2011 collective bargaining agreement with the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association, News Radio 1200 WOAI news reports.
The clause, which the city signed as part of the agreement, allows the provisions of the existing contract to remain in place for ten years after the expiration of the contract itself if no succeeding agreement has been reached.
The existence of the clause has allowed the SAPFFA to decline to open talks with the city on a new agreement which City Manager Sheryl Sculley stresses must include a change in current language allowing firefighters to pay zero premiums for their and their dependents' health care, language that the city says is 'unsustainable, given the rising costs of health care.'
The city says fully 15% of the costs borne by taxpayers under the current agreement, which expired at the end of 2014, are for health care costs, a figure which is certain to rise substantially before the Evergreen Clause expires in 2024.
The city will claim in its briefs to the court that the clause violates constitutional provisions prohibiting cities from taking on unfunded debt.
The San Antonio Police Officers Association has approved a new contract with the city which restructured health insurance premium requirements in certain cases,
Evergreen clauses are not unusual for public safety employee contracts in Texas.. Since it is illegal for public safety employees to strike, Evergreen clauses insure that police and firefighters will stay on the job during contract negotiations, and prohibits so called 'blue flu' walkouts.
The city's attempt to get the Evergreen clause thrown out in court has failed at the District Court and Appellate Court levels.