City and fire union make progress as contract negotiations resume, remain far apart on pay terms

City and fire union make progress as contract negotiations resume, remain far apart on pay terms

The city and fire union’s stalled contract negotiations sputtered back to life Monday after a seven-week break.

But although the City of San Antonio and San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association appeared to make more progress in one session than they had in the previous eight, they’re still far apart in terms of pay.

Both sides indicated a renewed sense of optimism.

“So one of our objectives for today was to narrow the issues. And I think we did that,” said Deputy City Manager Maria Villagomez, the city’s lead negotiator.

SAPFFA President Joe Jones said it also felt like the city had made some movement their way.

“It feels like we’re finally negotiating,” he told reporters.

The two sides are scheduled to continue negotiations on Tuesday.

STALL OUT

The negotiations hit a wall on May 3 after making minimal progress over the course of five weeks, especially regarding pay. Though the city suggested bringing in a third-party mediator to help move things along, the union said it preferred to push ahead with the regular collective bargaining process.

Back at the table this week the city agreed to a three-year contract, offered slightly sharper pay increases, and withdrew several of its other proposals. In exchange, city negotiators asked the union to scrap a plan to add a fourth shift and proposed increases to other parts of their paychecks.

Villagomez said the hoped to hammer out a tentative deal on the wages over Monday and Tuesday’s bargaining sessions so staff could incorporate the cost into the draft budget being developed for mid-August.

“It is a big priority for us as we have started the development of the budget process. That’s the number one unresolved issue that we have,” Villagomez said.

The union agreed to the city’s request to drop some of its proposals, including a committee to create a plan to transition to a 24-hour on, 72-hour off shift rotation by by September 2027.

Jones said work schedule had been the second-highest priority for union membership. Under the current 24-hour on, 48-hour off shift rotation, firefighters work an average of 56 hours per week. The switch-up would have meant an average 42-hour workweek.

“So what we were trying to see is if the city was even open to talking about, you know, a healthier solution, a healthier schedule for our firefighters. And ultimately, I think we got our answer because they moved to cost it against us instead of listening to what we were looking for,” Jones said.

BASE PAY, BASIC DIFFERENCES

The union has been itching to make up lost ground on wages. An extended fight with the city over the previous contract, and the lackluster deal handed down by a panel of arbitrators have meant inflation has grown roughly three times as fast as firefighters’ pay since October 2013.

The city and union exchanged straightforward, opening salvos using across-the-board raises: 21.7% over five years from the city and 37.5% over three years from the union. Their counter proposals, though, have become increasingly convoluted.

Attempts to reallocate some incentive pay into firefighters’ base wages and the use of flat-rate raises mean the newer proposals contain a range of raise percentages, depending on the rank and seniority of the firefighter.

In general, though, the union has asked for much steeper wage increases than the city has been willing to offer.

There’s a nearly $8,600 gap between where the newest firefighters’ salaries would land under the city and the union’s wage proposals on Monday.

The graph below shows each proposal’s effect on the base pay of “Firefighter – Step A,” the lowest-paid firefighters in the SAFD.

A graph showing the effect of various city and fire union proposals on the base pay of the youngest firefighters in the San Antonio Fire Department. In addition to percentage-based raises, the union and city's latest proposals (yellow and turquoise) include switching $2,400 firefighters already receive in incentive pay over to their

LATEST CITY WAGE PROPOSAL (Jun. 24)

  • Three-year contract with the final raise in October 2026
  • Shifts $2,400 in current incentive pay over to base pay before annual raises of 7%, 4%, and 3.5% (15.2% compounded)
  • Newest firefighter base pay: $57,576 to $69,077 (20.0% raise)
  • Longest-tenured district chief base pay: $106,872 to $125,854 (17.8% raise)

LATEST UNION WAGE PROPOSAL (Jun. 24)

  • Three-year contract with the final raise in October 2026
  • Shifts $2,400 in current incentive pay over to base pay before annual raises of 11%, 9%, and 7% (29.5% compounded)
  • Newest firefighter base pay: $57,576 to $77,645 (34.9% raise)
  • Longest-tenured district chief base pay: $106,872 to $141,463 (32.4% raise)

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