HOUSTON, TX – Union officials for City of Houston employees approved an across-the-board salary freeze for two years under terms of new employment contracts. Mayor Annise Parker announced the joint decision to suspend pay raises until 2013 at a press conference held Wednesday (Aug. 17).
“All three unions recognized that we are in a very deep recession; that there has to be some shared sacrifice,” Parker said. “And so all of these contracts have two years initially with no pay raises. This gives the City of Houston an opportunity to get through this economic downtown and begin to recover before there are any considerations given to raises for city employees.”
Three union organizations have announced contract details: the Houston Police Officers Union (HPOA), Houston Professional Firefighters Association Local 341 (HFD) and the Houston Organization of Public Employees (HOPE).
The terms of the new HPOA employment contract allows increases of three percent in 2013 and 2014. A salary increase of four percent will be given in 2015.
In addition, a new incentive for patrol officers was introduced with adjustments for seniority in hopes of increasing officer retention and to reward those with longer service, officials said. Yearly bonuses of $600, $1200 or $1800 will be awarded at the four, six and eight-year service mark.
The new HPOA contract also includes new programs for professional development and a mentoring program for Police Officers on probation.
The HFD union finalized terms of a three-year contract last May which stipulated there will be no layoffs or raises in 2012. A salary increase of one percent was promised in 2013. However, the salary increase could be raised to two percent or more if the economy rebounds and the city’s revenues exceed budget projections by two percent or more.
HOPE officials finalized their employment contract last month which includes a two-percent pay increase in 2013 and three-percent raise in 2014. However, additional salary increases could be triggered if revenues exceeds budget projects in 2014.
Mayor Parker said HOPE union officials had proactively sought ways to cut payroll costs earlier in the budget process.
“I am particularly appreciative of Hope which as an organization stepped up last Fall when we began to see the size of the budget gap we would face, they brought me the idea of voluntary furloughs,” Parker said at the press conference. “Those voluntary furloughs allowed us to prepare for the six days of mandatory furloughs that I gave each of our civilian employees. As part of their contract they also showed a willingness to share sacrifices with the city, as their contract (pay increases) begins to rise it is limited by the overall economy. If our economy picks up and the city revenues pick up they get to share in that. But if the revenues don’t pick up they are recognizing they are in the same boat as all of the other taxpaying citizens and they will not receive that pay raise.”
Previously, each union contract had a five-year term and all three were up for re-negotiation at the same time. However, contract negotiations will be staggered in the future. The HFD contract has a three-year term and will come up for re-negotiation in 2014. The HOPE contract has a four-year term which expires in June 2015. The five-year HPOA contract expires in 2016.
“We agreed to space out the contracts,” Parker said. “Going forward there is a little breathing space and an opportunity to make adjustments as the economy changes.”