Apr. 29, 2019

Fire Chief Samuel Peña's statement about possible Houston Fire Department staffing changes

HOUSTON - Fire Chief Samuel Peña released the following information during today's special called city council meeting to discuss last Wednesday's 10-6 vote to layoff firefighters to help balance the City of Houston budget with Prop B,

"In the months leading up to the April 24 City Council vote amending Ordinance 2017-0462, I personally briefed most of council members on the anticipated affect Proposition B would have if the entire financial obligation must be absorbed in one year.

"In those individual briefings, I spoke extensively about the proposed reduction in Fire Department headcount, restructuring, moving from a 4 platoon to a 3 platoon shift schedule to maximize apparatus staffing with a lower headcount, the demotions, (otherwise known as reduction in rank positions) that would result from eliminating one platoon shift, and the preference for a multi-year phase-in approach to any changes.

"State law governs the reduction in force process for classified personnel, which includes demotions. The city is following that process as outlined in Section 143.085.

"Due to the city's interpretation of the language in Proposition B, approximately 70% of those that would demote will actually receive an increase in pay. Additionally, Mayor Turner has committed that no HFD employee demoted as a result of the reduction in force will take a reduction in pay.

"During my presentation to the Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee on April 9, I did mention that there would be reductions in emergency operations and in support division personnel.

"The number of proposed reductions in each rank and overall number of layoffs was presented and clearly listed in the Request for Council Action document for ordinance no. 2017-0462. Additionally, I personally discussed the item at agenda briefing held at the City Hall Annex on April 15.

"Staff from every council district was present and questions about the demotions and process were asked and answered.
On April 24, council voted on the ordinance resulting in a proposed layoff of 220 firefighters and a reduction of the 251 promoted positions listed on the document."