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story.lead_photo.caption Texarkana, Texas, Fire Department union members discuss bargains with city negotiators to continue the discussion of new contracts on Wednesday in the City Hall council chambers in Texarkana. Photo by Hunt Mercier / Texarkana Gazette.

TEXARKANA, Texas — City officials and the firefighters' union reached no new agreement Wednesday in the latest round of collective bargaining talks aimed at producing an employment contract.

In an open meeting at City Hall, the negotiating teams rehashed the firefighters' original contract proposal, first presented in July, without making notable progress in reconciling disputes over employee grievance procedure, maintenance of current benefits and wage increases, among others.

The meeting took place less than a week before the City Council is scheduled to vote on a Fiscal Year 2020 budget that would take effect Oct. 1.

Another collective bargaining meeting is scheduled for Thursday at 11
a.m.

The union has put firefighter pay at center stage from the beginning of this year's talks, bringing in a compensation consultant to argue that Texas-side firefighters make significantly less money than their counterparts in comparable cities.

But the city has refused to negotiate wages until other matters — especially its broad proposed management rights clause — are resolved.

The negotiation teams have agreed not to communicate with news media except through agreed-upon written statements.

In November 2016, Texas-side voters elected to allow the Fire Department to engage in collective bargaining.

Firefighters later chose the union, IAFF Local 367, aka the Texarkana Professional Firefighters Association, as their representative in employment talks.

In 2018, multiple meetings and an attempt at third-party mediation did not result in a contract.

Union members voted against accepting a contract proposed by the city, rejecting it as unresponsive to firefighters' concerns. The city rejected the union's request to resolve disagreements through binding arbitration.

Wednesday's meeting was delayed an hour as city staff resolved technical difficulties in starting a live internet video stream. The meeting ultimately was streamed live through the city's Facebook account.

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