Houston Mayor John Whitmire and the Houston Professional Firefighters Association have announced they have reached a tentative agreement to end the city’s 8-year labor dispute with the group. 

In a joint press release, the mayor and HPFFA President Marty Lancton said the tentative agreement reached late Thursday night will “resolve all outstanding pay issues for Houston firefighters dating back to 2017.”

Towards the end of 2023, the Greater Houston Partnership released a report estimating that the back pay to the firefighters could be as high as $500 million, although no number was provided in the city’s press release. In an interview over the firefighter dispute, after Whitmire took office, he said that settlement bonds could be a possible avenue to fund the back pay settlement. 

“Agreement on the amount owed to Houston firefighters for the eight years they have worked without a contract clears the path for the implementation of essential steps to actualize the mechanics of the deal. A subsequent announcement will provide detailed information on these additional steps.”

According to the release, both parties have made compromises to reach the agreement, although details have not been made public yet. 

“A world-class city like Houston deserves a well-funded fire department to attract and retain talented individuals who are willing to risk their safety for us during our times of need,” said Mayor Whitmire. “Houston’s fire department should be at or near the top among the major cities in our state. This agreement resolves a long-festering pay dispute with firefighters, avoids further unnecessary litigation costs, and allows us to move forward together.”

The mayor said a follow-up announcement will provide details and additional terms. He will then bring a proposal to the City Council for approval but has not yet provided a timeline. 

Charles Blain

Charles Blain is the president of Urban Reform and Urban Reform Institute. A native of New Jersey, he is based in Houston and writes on municipal finance and other urban issues.