Northwest side Councilman Greg Brockhouse, who is the staunchest supporter the San Antnoio Professional Firefighters Association has at City Hall, today said its time for the union to resume contract talks with the city, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
"I can’t say what City leadership will do. I can’t guarantee fairness at the negotiating table. I can’t ensure any pay or benefits. But I can guarantee we will continue the acrimony if someone doesn't open one ear and listen," Brockhouse said in a letter to union leadership. "And besides, at the end of the day, the deal is at the negotiating table, where the public, the policy makers and your Association argue and claw for your pay and benefits."
Brockhouse pointed out that the union has been victorious on all fronts, and now would be the best time for talks to resume. He points out the union won its charger amendment drive, City Manager Sheryl Sculley, who the union blamed for the failure to talk about a new contract, has retired, and the city has dropped its failed lawsuits against the city, which the union always claimed was the prime prerequisite to resuming talks.
"Over the years the anger has built, campaigns waged and millions spent attacking each other and we are right back where we started. I am sure I speak for our community, when I say it’s time to schedule a meeting and start moving forward," Brockhouse said.
The fire union has been without a contract since 2014. It has been standing on a controversial 'evergreen clause' approved by city negotiators which allows the terms of the expired contract to remain in force for ten years, if no new contract has been reached.
The Union is refusing to consider a demand by the City that firefighters give up 'zero premium' health insurance plans for themselves and their families, a cushy benefit which is no longer enjoyed by any other workers, in city government or elsewhere. The City says the benefit, in the current era of rising health care costs, is simply unsustainable, and Sculley has used the phrase 'crowd out' to refer to how the costs of the benefit could eventually push out all general fund spending, from pothole repair to libraries.