A contract that would have brought North Kingstown firefighters back to their original work schedules has been shot down unanimously by the North Kingstown Town Council.
The council and Local 1651, the North Kingstown firefighters' union, returned to the bargaining table following the ruling of Superior Court Judge Brian Stern, who ordered the town to "unring the bell" and nix the 24-hour shift schedule for the firefighters, back in December.
In January 2011, the council approved a new ordinance that moved the fire department from 10- and 14-hour shifts to 24-hour shifts, reduced the number of platoons from four to three and increased the work week from 42 to 56 hours while reducing their hourly 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."
For the past month, both sides have been working toward a tentative contract. Union officials and the fire department voted in favor of the agreement and sent it on to the council. At its meeting early Saturday morning, the council unanimously voted to veto the agreement after Councilor Kerry McKay made the motion to deny it.
The council unanimously instructed the negotiating team to return to the bargaining table with a counter offer to the fire union that is "fair to the firefighters and is in the best interest of the North Kingstown taxpayers."
In his ruling, Stern issued a stay of order, which is set to expire this week. The court-ordered return is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 7.
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