Town, Fire Union Returning to Bargaining Table

The town council is expected to meet later this week following a ruling from Superior Court.


Town officials and the North Kingstown fire union are expected to return to the bargaining table after a Superior Court judge ruled against an ordinance that implemented at mandatory 24-hour shift for firefighters.

On Friday, Superior Court Judge Brian Stern release his 28-page ruling on the ordinance y.  Stern ordered the town to “unring the bell” and return to pre-ordinance work schedules and pay. According to Stern, the town violated the town charter and state laws by making these unilateral changes without first negotiating or winning via arbitration. In fact, in 2011 the town's proposal for 24-hour shifts was shot down by an arbitration board that stated that North Kingstown financial situation "does not mandate such a drastic change."

On Monday, North Kingstown Fire Union (Local 1651) President Ray Furtado delivered a letter of intent to begin bargain negotiations for the next fiscal year. According to Furtado, he hopes both sides will sit down to resolve issues surrounding the 24-hour shift, Stern’s decision and the upcoming contract.

“I’m hopefully they will assess the massive damages they’ve incurred at this point,” said Furtado. “I hope they start working to solve this problem rather than further litigation.”

During Monday night’s town council meeting, Town Manager Michael Embury said the two parties would be sitting down soon to begin talks.

“I am pleased they want to come back to the table,” said Embury, who added the two sides will be sitting down within the next 10 days per state law.

The council is planning to meet later this week after reviewing Stern’s ruling to decide the next course of action.  The town has 30 days before Stern’s order goes into effect to either “unring the bell” or appeal the decision to Rhode Island Supreme Court.

In a memo to members of the North Kingstown Town Council, Embury disagreed with the court’s decision on the matter, calling it a “head scratcher.” Embury believed that the judge did not have all the facts before him and Superior Court did not have the jurisdiction to make such a decision.  Embury added that the decision contradicts several Supreme Court decisions and that town officials did not violate the town charter with the passage of the ordinance.

For Local 1651, the decision is a validation of a nearly year-long fight against the changes. Since the new schedule went into effect in March 2012, Furtado estimates that the town owes the union nearly $1.3 million in backpay and damages.

Furtado adds the new schedule has resulted in firefighters sometimes working double shifts or more. The department has also had difficulty hiring new employees for its six vacant positions.

“Clearly it’s because of the situation with the town,” said Furtado. “Nobody wants the job. We can’t find good people for these positions.”


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nkres December 21, 2012 at 12:43 PM
@NK Voter, Do you understand what the TC and TM did here is ILLEGAL!!! Use of the Embry/Stamm "fuzzy math" equation doesn't allow them to violate the law. The simple math they use is proven invalid for responses requiring more than one piece of equipment or station. I certainly hope somebody checks Embry's math other times.
Govstench December 21, 2012 at 01:35 PM
The courts will always stand behind a contract. Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs) usually contain language that addresses working hours, wage rates, etc. The town council attempted to do an "end around" by passing an ordinance over a contract. As Dolan is an attorney, it is surprising she would go along with that. She had to know they would not prevail. Police and Fire have the arbitration process and should have taken that route which would have been far cheaper for the taxpayer than this result. The taxpayers of that town need to get more involved with these matters and come out and express themselves. To do otherwise, they end up stuck with these messes.
LiveLaughLove December 22, 2012 at 02:13 PM
When they fought the Villa Maria fire, there had been 20 runs in less than 24 hours, and a firefighter had a heart problem. How is this safe, and when do you think it will be that the town ends up paying a far higher price than just the lawyer bills?
ru4real December 22, 2012 at 04:34 PM
Your comments are funny. In another post you cited the CBAs and stated that you did not know where the judge was going with his ruling. His ruling is on point. If your NKGOP buddies foolishly decide to appeal they will be shut down again. These fools are playing with more than the proverbial fire. They are destroying the town of NK. I predict that they will be politically destroyed before the next election. I can also see a couple of scenarios where certain people may wind up on the wrong end of legal action and that will be great fun to watch as they squirm. You state that the TC should have gone to arbitration, another laugh. The last time they did that they lost! DUH that's why they did not try it again. So they decided that they could break the law along with the TM. The fact of the matter is that even though the TM and Kinder have pushed this stupid agenda the TC has the final yeah or nay and they are to blame for the whole mess. You love to speak out of both sides of your mouth about some issues. Now that your NKGOP buddies are in the deep stuff you speak from the other side. Go whine with the rest of your NKGOP friends. The gray cells of that whole group would not fill a thimble.
Dark star December 23, 2012 at 03:09 AM
That has been your mantra for at least the past 2 years and possibly more. So tell me "chicken little"...did the sky fall??? No it did not. Your two primary targets got re-elected. So that leads me to believe that you are in the minority and you are not very effective.


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