State Labor Relations Board – Town Denied Rights of Employees as Guaranteed by Law
North Kingstown – On Monday, the North Kingstown Firefighters Association, International Association of Firefighters, Local 1651 (NKFFA, IAFF) announced the filing of an unfair labor practices (ULP) complaint against the Town of North Kingstown by the Rhode Island State Labor Relations Board.
Resultant of litigation between the Union and Town, due to the Town’s implementation of unilateral shift, wage and platoon structure changes in its fire department in March 2012, the continued legal accord has thus far rendered favorable opinions on behalf of the firefighters at both the court and administrative levels.
The 2-page ULP is a product of the Town of North Kingstown sending a letter directly to the Union membership, along with a settlement agreement, thereby circumventing union leadership, the chain of command and union legal counsel. (see related article)
The press release refers to the Town’s attempt to induce settlement via a one-time cash payment to each member in amount of $14,000 and it’s commentary regarding the now years long battle at both administrative and court levels. It reads in part:
“The Council’s letter attempts to “bypass the Union” and persuade the firefighters by offering over $14,000 “cash in hand” to accept the terms. Despite the North Kingstown Firefighters well-documented legal success, the letter also tells the firefighters to “consider where the last two years of litigation have gotten you”. Due to the previous Unfair Labor Practices committed by the Town, the North Kingstown Fire Fighters are owed more than $4 million in withheld wages, as well as reimbursement of legal fees related to the Town’s previous offenses.”
The letter, dated March 27, 2014, inferring that Union leadership had not been forthcoming with information to its membership began:
“After negotiations with your union reps, we were presented with a tentative agreement to end all litigation and lock in a new 3 year contract going forward. While not without some reluctance, we unanimously agreed to ratify this settlement. Enclosed is the settlement proposal that we were told your union body also voted to ratify last week. Because subsequent rumors have raised concerns that, in fact you, may not have been presented this document, we want to be sure you have it.”
The Town, at the time, offered no basis for its claim of “subsequent rumors” and in response to questions concerning the letter and negotiations, Town Council President Liz Dolan wrote:
“I’m sure you have seen the letter and written offer that the Council sent to the NKFF members after the leadership refused to take it to them. While Ray Furtado replied with a counteroffer, it was in response to a prior draft and, more importantly, without any indication that the membership has/had met and discussed our proposal as proposed.
Unfortunately, the Monday Noon deadline has passed, so our good faith effort to again reach a settlement has met with non response. We will await the Supreme Court decision this fall.”
The ULP, date stamped June 18, 2014 further alleged that the Town of North Kingstown had violated the rights of its employees and engaged in actions contrary to public health and safety.
The Town and its firefighters are currently in arbitration on multiple years contracts and awaiting Supreme Court appearance in the fall.
03/18/2014 Special Meeting of IAFF Local 1651 NKFFA to discuss settlement offer
03/24/2014 Executive Session of the North Kingstown Town Council
03/25/2014 Town Council Offer Titled: NK FF Ltr Andriole Enc Final Settlement Proposal 3-25-14.pdf
03/31/2014 Town Council Agenda – Executive Session Meeting of 4/03/2014 (filed at 3:15 p.m.)
03/31/2014 Deadline set by Town Council for response to settlement offer dated 03/25/2014 and mailed 03/27/2014
03/31/2014 Union response to Town Council Offer
04/03/2014 Town Council Executive Session re: Fire Litigation
04/04/2014 North Kingstown Town Council Agenda (filed at 9:42 a.m.)