North Kingstown, RI. Superior Court Judge Brian J. Stern, in a 28 page decision, ordered the Town of North Kingstown to “unring the bell” on unilateral changes made to platoon structure, wages, shifts and hours for members of its paid firefighters union, Local 1651.
In a decision rendered on Friday, the Judge ordered the Town to return its firefighters and fire department to the state that existed prior to the March 4, 2012 implementation that saw platoon structure cut, 56 hour shift configurations and wage changes imposed outside the realm of collective bargaining.
“The Town now will be required to ―unring the bell and—as to wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment—go back to the state that existed pre-unilateral implementation,” wrote Stern in his decision.
Under the decision, the Town will also be required to compensate employees for wages lost during the time period extending from March through the return to their original schedule.
Hanging a price tag of nearly $1.3 million in damages on the Town’s actions, in addition to legal fees incurred by the taxpayers, NKFFA President Ray Furtado, was pleased with the decision that would end the “unsustainable working conditions” in effect for almost a year’s time.
“The latest Superior Court ruling clearly and emphatically reinforces our contention that the action taken by the Town was and remains illegal, and needs to be reversed immediately,” said Furtado in a statement over the weekend. “The safety, financial, and legal consequences of this horrible policy decision are staggering, and have continued for nearly a year.”
Noting that the Town’s implementation of unilateral changes and the decision were one of “first impression” the Judge allowed a 30 day stay of decision, affording the Town and North Kingstown Firefighter’s Association (NKFFA) the ability to work together towards a smooth transition, or in the alternative request further judicial remedy.