HOUSTON (AP) — A tentative agreement calls for Houston firefighters to get 10 percent raises over the next two years, bringing their pay closer to that in other Texas cities, officials said.
Jeff Caynon, president of the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association Local 341, said both the recession and the devastation of Hurricane Ike were factored into the $22 million in increases, which must still be approved by 4,000 union members and the City Council.
Both parties agreed to a shorter, two-year contract, as opposed to the 2005 four-year deal, to be better prepared if the economy worsens, he said.
"We're not exactly Wall Street fat cats or anything. Downturns in the economy affect the people I represent. People don't become firefighters and paramedics to get rich, but they have to be fairly compensated," he said in an online story Monday in the Houston Chronicle.
"We need to bring our firefighters up and keep our firefighters and retain them," said Michelle Mitchell, Houstons finance director.
The average annual salary for a firefighter is now $35,429 after one year of service, according to a union chart, but will reach about $39,000 in two years. Maximum base salary is $54,000, but will jump to $59,400 as the contract expires.
Houston firefighters and paramedics were paid less compared to their counterparts in many other Texas cities and across the U.S., said the International Association of Fire Fighters and Firehouse Magazine.
Mitchell said the new figures will bring the city in line with pay in Dallas and other Texas cities.
"This is going to be costly for taxpayers," said Barry Klein, president of the Houston Property Rights Association, which advocates for less spending in government.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.
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