North Kingstown – In yet another attempt by the Town of North Kingstown to separate its firefighters from their union leadership, Town Manager Michael Embury, in a recent letter to the Standard Times made self-proclaimed unfounded accusations against union leaders further defining the divide between the municipality and its first responders.
The letter from Embury – seemingly in response to a Rotarian award protested by the firefighters’ families – started in defense of Chief Fenwick Gardiner and quickly deteriorated into a political battle against the union membership, its leadership and consequently, the families Embury professed to hold in high regard.
Town accuses Union of ordered insubordination
Attacking the Union leadership for self-proclaimed unfounded “do not answer your phones” orders, Embury added to the bizarre litany of rumor on which the Town has made its case against the firefighters.
“Members have been instructed to not answer their phones when called by the chief or deputy chief to fill vacancies or provide relief,” said Embury. “Of course this is not in writing to provide plausible deniability, but it is a well-known fact.”
When asked about the well-known fact and consequential plausibility of his ordering North Kingstown firefighters to ignore the calls of their superiors, Raymond Furtado, IAFF NKFFA Local 1651 President, spoke candidly.
“To say that I would order my men not to answer their phones for a call to duty – to take an overtime shift and earn a possible $400 in overtime – to care for and feed their families, is ridiculous.”
A March 27, 2014 letter sent and signed by the Town Council to union membership, outside the scope of negotiations and collective bargaining, was also based on unfounded rumor.
“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.” – North Kingstown Town Council
The March correspondence resulted in a complaint filed by the Rhode Island State Labor Relations Board (SLRB) finding that the Town denied the rights of its employees as guaranteed by law and engaged in actions contrary to public health and safety.
Leadership accused of stressing its members out
The most recent letter, rolled out in the press, also accuses union leadership of causing the difficulties suffered by the firefighters and their families due to the Town’s unilateral implementation of shift, wage and platoon structure more than two years ago.
“If, in fact stress exists, it is inflicted by the union leadership on their union “brothers,” said Embury.
In addressing the firefighting brethren, Embury also blamed “select” and unnamed union leadership for shift ordering and holdovers through the application of the “don’t answer your phones” directive and attendance game he envisioned “being played be a number of members to the detriment of others.”
“Stress for some as it is applied by a select few,” said Embury. “Break your brothers and break the system philosophy.”
Union responds – Embury holds contempt for his own first responders
Furtado responded in a letter dated July 29, in defense of the department and his membership.
“ To say that his venomous rant is baseless and without merit is an understatement. One thing was unmistakable however; his unfettered contempt of the members of the North Kingstown Fire Department.”
See the entire Union response here.