Austin public safety contract talks to begin

Austin police at SXSW (KXAN Photo)
Austin police at SXSW (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — This week the Austin City Council begins labor negotiations with city police, firefighters and EMS personnel. Keeping the people of Austin safe is the goal, but the process can be fraught with problems.

Keeping the people of Austin safe is the goal, but the process can be fraught with problems.

“We have lots of different competing priorities,” said Mayor Steve Adler.The competition for your tax dollars promises to be fierce. Public safety workers want a pay increase. But how much can the city afford?

The competition for your tax dollars promises to be fierce. Public safety workers want a pay increase. But how much can the city afford? What about money to build and staff new fire stations?

To simplify the process, Mayor Adler is working to better coordinate the labor negotiations with the budget process.

“The best thing to have happen is for us to reach an agreement and move forward so there’s no period of time when there’s any down time. That would be the best thing and hopefully, we can get there.”

The priority for the mayor is to avoid a costly impasse. “I want to make sure that we get this right. So I don’t feel so much pressure that we can’t do that,” he said.

Interest groups are already speaking out.

“The community is suffering. They just had a shooting last week,” said Fatima Mann with the Austin Justice Coalition. The group fears items like extra pay for bi-lingual officers and elimination of the Citizens Review Panel could jeopardize the safety of minorities in Austin. “I don’t think having a Citizens Review Panel up for negotiations should be something that is considered at all.”

The city council will officially begin the process on Thursday.

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