Trying to get the long stalled contract talks with the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association off dead center, the City today unveiled a contract proposal for the firefighters that would end a three and a half year contract stalemate, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
The key sticking point has been a city demand that the firefighters union give up its attractive benefit of being able to buy health insurance for themselves and their families without having to pay anything in premiums, a benefit which is practically unheard of in these days of rising health costs.
City spokesman Jeff Coyle says the city's compromise is to allow the firefighters to buy their own health insurance premium free, but pay premiums to cover their families, up to a maximum of $346 a month.
"$346 a month is less than what firefighters in Austin, Dallas, Ft. Worth and Houston currently pay," Coyle said. "I would suggest it is less than what most San Antonians currently pay to insure their families."
Coyle says the firefighters would get a 12% pay raise over the four year life of the contract. The firefighters have not had a pay raise since the previous contract expired in September of 2014.
Another unusual benefit that firefighters have had for some time would be lost...Coyle says the city would end taxpayer funding of the firefighters legal defense fund.
"The taxpayers would no longer be funding firefighters' divorces, child custody cases, and other legal cases."
And he says the firefighters would agree to a six month 'Evergreen Clause.'The current ten year Evergreen Clause, which was negotiated as part of the 2011 agreement, has allowed the union not to negotiate over it's health care benefits, because under the clause, the conditions of the previous contract continue for ten years.
The City has gone to court to have the Evergreen Clause declared illegal, but so far it has lost in two courts.
The SAPFFA has said it will not resume negotiations until the City's lawsuit is dropped, and Coyle says dropping the lawsuit is not anticipated.
He says the contract proposal made today would limit total public safety spending to 66% of the total general fund budget, ensuring adequate funding for street lights, pothole repair, libraries, and other city services.