The 24-hour shift for North Kingstown's firefighters may be no more by the end of the weekend. On Monday, Superior Court Judge Brian Stern has ordered town officials to return the North Kingstown Fire Department to its previous hours and salaries by Feb. 11.
In January 2012, the North Kingstown Town Council passed an ordinance mandating 24-hour shifts for the town's firefighters, increasing the work week from 42 to 56 hours, eliminating one platoon and decreasing firefighters' hourly wages. The new ordinance was implemented in March 2012 and, since then, the town and fire union (Local 1651) have been embroiled in a series of court battles.
Back in December 2012, Judge Stern ordered the town to "unring the bell," stating that the council did not have the right to make those unilateral changes to the fire department after losing the issue in arbitration a year before.
According to Local 1651 Union President Ray Furtado, these changes have put a burden on the town's firefighters, forcing some to work double shifts due to understaffing. In statements to The Hummel Report, Furtado said that the down is liable for approximately $1.3 million in damages and backpay since the 24-hour shift went into effect in March.
Following Stern's order to "unring the bell," both sides returned to the bargaining table to renegotiate. A tentative agreement was ratified by the union, but was vetoed unanimously by the council over the weekend.
Check back for updates on this story.