North Kingstown – Members of the North Kingstown Firefighters Association Local 1651 met Friday night to ratify a temporary contract negotiated between the North Kingstown Firefighter’s Association Local 1651 and the Town in a good faith effort to end a year-long battle between the two.
The discord between Town and Union saw NKFFA members subject to extended and prolonged shifts, in addition to significant wage changes. The current structure was forced upon its firefighter’s and emergency services personnel due to the Town’s unilateral implementation of a 3-platoon departmental structure.
The parties meeting in negotiations subsequent to Judge Brian J. Stern’s ruling against the Town in December (ordering the Town to return the department to its previous platoon structure, wages, shifts and hours of operation as existed prior to March 4, 2012), came to a tentative agreement (TA) on Wednesday.
After approximately ten hours at the table on Wednesday and multiple sessions in early January, the negotiating teams hammered out a tentative agreement (pictured) to be presented to Union members and the Town Council for ratification.
Town firefighters and union officials on Friday voted in favor of ratification, sending the Temporary Agreement to the Town Council for ratification in executive session early this morning.
Instead of issuing a stamp of approval, the Council in a 5-0 vote struck down the agreement after motion was made by newly appointed member Kerry McKay to “not ratify” the agreement. The motion was seconded by Richard Welch.
In press release early this afternoon, Town Manager, Michael Embury who was present at negotiations and signed the TA on behalf of the town, noted that council members asked the negotiating team to return to the bargaining table with a counter offer.
Ratification would have returned the firefighters to their previous platoon structure as early as tomorrow morning. Court ordered return is scheduled for February 7 under a stay of order granted by Judge Stern after his ruling.
“We came to the bargaining table in good faith,” said Raymond Furtado, President of the NKFFA. “We expected the Town was doing the same.”
Carol Hueston, council member sat in on negotiations and offered her handshake on the temporary agreement on Wednesday per Furtado.
“We don’t even know who we’re negotiating with anymore,” Furtado explained. “This reversal of position on a negotiated, signed agreement. A handshake and promise of good faith,” he went on. “This is indicative of why the State Labor Relations Board has issued unfair labor practices findings against the Town.”
Stern’s stay due to expire this week; the Town will also be on the hook for wages and damages to department members estimated in excess of $1.4 million.
Full story to follow.