Firefighters Union, City, Again Don't Talk Contract

The City of San Antonio and the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association continue to spin their wheels on the road to a new contract, with the uinion a no show today at what was supposed to be the start of contract talks, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

"It is their members who have gone three and a half years now without a pay raise, and our taxpayers, who continue to fund their unsustainable health care plan, who lose here," City spokesman Jeff Coyle said.

Firefighters attorney Ricky Poole instead sent a letter to the City stressing that the union will not negotiate until the City drops a lawsuit that was filed more than two years ago challenging the constitutionality of an 'Evergreen Clause,' which allows the provisions of the old contract to remain in place for ten years after its expiration date.

  It is that clause which has allowed the Firefighters Union to decline to negotiate over City Manager Sheryl Sculley's demand that they give up what is now an almost unheard-of benefit, not having to pay any premiums for their personal and dependent health insurance.

Poole said the City has agreed on Evergreen clause for decades, and, in fact, has taken advantage of the clause itself on occasion to delay negotiations.

"Ironically, the City took advantage of these very same contract terms in both 2005 and 2009, utilizing the Evergreen period by delaying the start of collective bargaining.  Local 624 did not sue the City, but waited until the City was ready to negotiate."

Coyle says the lawsuit is a false excuse.  He says the City has sent ten letters to the union, setting dates for bargaining.

"Most of them were sent before the lawsuit was ever filed," he said.  "In fact, the lawsuit was filed because they would not come to the table.  So the lawsuit is not an excuse, and it is also not a deterrent."

Coyle says the union does not want to bargain because the public bargaining process would reveal its 'unrealistic expectations.'

He said the city will continue scheduling negotiation sessions and will continue to request the union to attend.

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