The San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association says it will open contract talks with the City in a heartbeat, if the City drops an ongoing lawsuit against the union, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
Mayor Nirenberg on Wednesday, speaking behind a digital clock displaying the days, hours, and minutes since the SAPFFA contract expired in 2014, said the failure of union President Chris Steele to agree to talks is costing firefighters $6 million in lost wages from anticipated pay raises per year, or a total of $20 million.
Nirenberg says it is time for the union to 'end the gamesmanship' and return to serious negotiations.
"The Union has repeatedly indicated its willingness to come to the table and bargain with the City, once the City dismisses the pending lawsuit which is brought against its own fire fighters regarding the last freely and openly negotiated collective bargaining agreement," Steele wrote in a letter to City Attorney Andrew Segovia. "Simply stated, the City has known our position for some time--Local 624 will not negotiate a contract while the prior contract is still in litigation."
The City is suing over the legality of the 'Evergreen Clause' of the 2011 contract, which expired in 2014, which allows the terms of the 2011 contract to remain in force for ten years after its expiration, or until 2024. That clause allows the SAPFFA to avoid having to give up what is now an almost unheard of perk---the ability not to have to pay any premiums on health insurance for themselves and their families.
City Manager Sheryl Sculley says that has to be renegotiated because the skyrocketing price of health care has made it unsustainable for taxpayers and could lead to the need for tax increases.
"I take by your invitation that the City has decided to dismiss the pending lawsuit, and save the taxpayers the many hundreds of thousands and or millions of dollars that continued, protracted litigation on this matter will cost the citizens," Steele wrote.
The City has twice lost an attempt to get a court to throw out a contract provision that City officials, including Sculley, freely agreed on during collective bargaining in 2011.