GALVESTON - The City of La Marque and its fire fighters have reached an agreement on a new contract, ending a seven-month dispute that culminated in a lawsuit. The La Marque Fire Fighters Association promised to cease legal action against the city in exchange for the contract.

Under the settlement, the city's 16 paid fire fighters will receive a 6 percent raise within a three-year period and there will be an increase from $4 to $6 a month in the fire fighters' longevity pay.

The Southeast Texas Record reported in January that the union sued the city in Galveston County District Court in an effort to get the city council to consider a proposed collective bargaining agreement.

According to the original petition filed Jan. 15, the fire fighters alleged the city had refused to come to an agreement on a new contract because "the city does not like who the firefighters have chosen as their democratically elected president."

Both the association and the city had entered into previous collective bargaining agreements governing the wages, hours, and employment conditions for the fire fighters. The current agreement ended on Sept. 30, 2009.

Negotiations on a replacement agreement occurred a month before the expiration date with both parties tentatively agreeing on "on all issues raised by either concerning the fire fighters' wages, hours, and working conditions," court documents said.

Ratification was the final step, however, only the firefighters ratified the new agreement while the city deliberately stalled, the association stated.

The suit further explained that La Marque Mayor Pro Tem Keith Bell and La Marque City Manager Eric Cage were bent on defeating the measure, insisting they had stated publicly that the plaintiff would not have a contract approved until association president John Brasher is unseated.

Mediation was suggested, but the defendant declined to participate, according to the suit.

The Galveston County Daily News reported in a Mar. 11 article that the contract will be retroactive to October, with firefighters expecting to see a little extra in their paychecks.

Case No. 10cv0245

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