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Letter: Town Manager Explains Ruling on Fire Union Court Case

Town Manager Michael Embury reacts to Wednesday's ruling on a court case between the town and the fire union.

It was a bit disappointing to find a and a lack of evaluating a sometimes confusing decision by the Court. The full meaning and effect(s) of the decision are being studied and there will be no changes from the present arrangement. The last lines of the decision are confusing, given the clear holding earlier that the court cannot say what terms of employment prevail once the contract has expired.

Here are some of the significant features:

1.  Union’s request for an injunction was denied.

2.  The ordinance was declared invalid because of the . The judge found this to be a substantial change that required two readings, reversing himself on his prior holding in denying the union’s temporary restraining order request.

3.   The Court held that the town has the absolute right to reorganize the fire department into three divisions, with no duty to bargain over that.

4.   The Court emphasized that the town does have a duty to bargain over wages, hours and other effects of the decision – which of course we did.  The Court did hold that implementation of those terms by ordinance was unlawful and therefore the ordinance was void.  (This seems to imply that the ordinance was unnecessary for implementation of the three-platoon system.)

5.  Court did not rule on whether the Union waived arbitration by missing the 30 day statutory filing requirement.

Clearly, the ruling needs further study but is a plain reaffirmation of management rights in this matter.  In the end, structural change across the board (as we have obtained in our dealings with Local 1033, non-union personnel and  the Police union) are essential to the long-term viability and fiscal well being of North Kingstown.

As you can see, this decision contains a number of issues that support the action of the town council and is not the result being championed in some corners.

 

Michael E. Embury

Town Manager

80 Boston Neck Road

North Kingstown, RI  02852

membury@northkingstown.org

 

Concerned Resident June 10, 2012 at 04:55 PM
My correspondence is based on your revolt that 24 hour shift is horrible and unacceptable........try as I may seems I can't get a straight response from you clutch. Once again, is a 24 hour shift ok or not??
Concerned Resident June 10, 2012 at 04:58 PM
Seems either you are of should have been a lawyer as you seem to continually look to skirt questions that will allow the tax paying residents of NK to better understand much to all aka the truth. Then again your responses are very much allowing all to see the scope of your agenda.
Clutch127 June 10, 2012 at 05:29 PM
There's enough lawyers involved in this fiasco already. That said, what are you thinking when you say lawyers "continually look to skirt questions that will allow the tax paying residents of NK to better understand much to all aka the truth." Aren't you aware that lawyers are a driving force behind this entire debacle? The scope of our agenda is to continue to provide the highest possible quality of fire/EMS services to our residents, in the safest, most fiscally responsible manner available. I can't say it any simpler that that. After all, somebody has to advocate for the fire and rescue services in this Town. We always have and always will; our residents deserve nothing less.
Chris Beattie June 10, 2012 at 06:34 PM
Your point of not being able to afford what we pay now is very valid. The NK Firefighters offered the town many many concessions over the past 2.5 years. I can attest to it because I was in favor of all of the concessions. Instead of accepting our numerous packages, with the most recent package saving the town (and taxpayers) over $2M in a 3.5 year period, the town decided to enact this 'Invalid' ordinance. What I find most interesting is the town lost the 56 hour work weekargument in the last arbitration, so now they figure if they can't win the game playing by the rules then they break the rules. That to me is not a good example to set for our community. We, as parents, try to educate our children. When my kids ask me why my shift has changed and I am working so many more hours, my response to them is just that...the town could not win so they cheated. Simple, true, and PATHETIC! I wish is was different CR, but it is not. You, me, the rest of the taxpayers are the ones getting hurt here. Just think where that $2M+ savings would have taken our tax rate, that is going to increase, in July...not to mention the hundreds of thousands the NKTC is wasting on legal fees. I am the "fortunate" one that gets to pay both ways. I pay my taxes in this town to fight myself. Talk about frustrating!!!
Concerned Resident June 10, 2012 at 06:53 PM
First off, NK tax paying residents are not your residents; hopefully you understand that as you work for us. Another mis-guided statement as the union is the driving force behind this law suit. You are partially correct in that we deserve the best public employee services we can afford. Lastly, you still haven't answered all of my previous questions, for ease I will copy them to this comment: Why won't you answer direct questions? Why do you want me to call you? Why are you calling out the T/C members by name? Why do you continue to distort the facts? Why if you prevailed in court do you continue to attempt to convince the tax paying residents of NK? Are you a NK tax paying resident? answered by you "I do not live in NK"
Concerned Resident June 10, 2012 at 07:04 PM
@chris: not that you are seeking mine of any one else’s approval but first and foremost your comments show that you are a good person. If all the facts were presented to you accurately I think it would help you understand much more. My dealings with clutch has always been vague and mushy such that I have to add what I know to what he says to come to conclusions……as the saying goes – somewhere in the middle is the truth. While I'm hopeful that a mutual understanding and compromise is reached I will not support any that results in increase spending and or taxes. No fun for anyone and in the end more likely than not there will be no winners. Wish you a great remainder of the weekend with the great weather.
Chris Beattie June 10, 2012 at 08:54 PM
@CR- I am not sure if you realize it or not, but I know more of the facts than you may think. I do not know if maybe you know Clutch personally and do not like him or you only know him from engaging back and forth on this blog...he has provided you with numerous facts. I believe the 2 of you have not connected on a respect level. I do not know you, but I must admit that it is hard to accept praise/critisism, let alone respect someone who of the unknown. For you to continuously criticize Clutch without knowing more of the facts of this whole debacle is a bit ridiculous. Let's run down a few of the facts that I know: 1. The Town of North Kingstown has failed to accept any of the Firefighters offers over the past few years. Offers that would have saved the taxpayers millions. Including the latest offer that would give them their "structural change" 2. The Town of North Kingstown has adopted an 'Invalid' ordinance that has changed the lives of ever line firefighter on the job. *Side note... just so you are aware there are more firefighters working 34-48 hours continuously with only 24-38 hours off between shifts. This is not healthy and needs to change! 3. The Town of North Kingstown is costing the taxpayers hundreds of thousands in legal fees to fight its firefighters on an issue they have already lost in arbitration. 4. The NK Firefighters have been treated like "second class" citizens in this town. They and their profession are not respected by the NKTC!
Concerned Resident June 11, 2012 at 12:58 AM
@chris: so as to continue constructive dialog I will leave clutch out of this comment. Do you have an opinion as to why the T/C has not accepted any of the ff's proposals? As I will take a leap of faith in that you are accurate in indicating that there is ff's working 34-48 continuous hours with 24-38 off.......I am in agreement with you that this should change. Although I will add that if you are correct then worst case scenario they are working over 100hrs/week (48/24/48/24/24)? Why do you feel that the T/C – ff’s have pushed things to the point of lawyers, courts etc? Understanding that one’s perception is their reality I can feel for you but I do not feel that the T/C views ff’s as second rate and or non-respected residents. I truly wish you could see much from the other side to gain a better understanding of the feeling of private sector residents. I’m sure you are seeing much in the news throughout the country regarding such.
Concerned Resident June 11, 2012 at 12:59 AM
cont @chris: I'll be honest with you in saying that the pension reform hearings very much soured my opinion of union officials and their attitude. I'll even go so far as telling you that 2 friends that testified in favor of reform were sent made up faxes to their managers at their place of work......who knows how many others received similar. Ultimately I would like to see harmony but things seem to be going in the wrong direction for and against with many (local, state and federal) that I am not sure how things will eventually play out. Too many are tapped out such that hopefully a middle ground can be realized.
Rhodeyresident0303 June 11, 2012 at 01:39 AM
NK is working 24 hour shifts with 3 platoons. Haven't hired anyone since 2008, has firefighters working over 70+ hours a week being held over or called into work 48 hours straight. In my own personal opinion. As a taxpaying resident I would have liked to seen a studies, or the way departments similar to our town operate, I would have had a vote, just not rushed into this only to cost us residents 500,000 more to go to these 24 hour shifts and Millions in legal fees. If they want 24 hour shifts then I as a tax paying resident want to see all my trucks staffed and with more than 2 firefighters on each of those trucks.
Rhodeyresident0303 June 11, 2012 at 01:43 AM
Cumberland fire department just switched to 24 hour shifts... They work 48 hours a week, have 3 guys on a truck and cross staff 2 ladders...why doesn't the NKTC do it like that?????? Not only is the NKFD disgustingly over worked by they are also horribly under staffed !!!!!!
Rhodeyresident0303 June 11, 2012 at 01:48 AM
Another fun fact... A North Kingstown Fire Captain makes less money a year than a regular firefighter with 5 years experience on the job in the Warwick fire department and cranston fire department.... Within the next few months a few NKFD firefighters will be retiring, and a few leaving for other departments. What's going to happen when these people leave??????? Have the rest pick up the slack and work 72 hours straight ??? Or just work 120+ hours a week???????
Chris Beattie June 11, 2012 at 02:02 AM
@CR- I can only speculate that the TC has put their faith in their lawyer Dan Kinder. He has made it clear to many that he is looking to make a name for himself by getting firefighters in the state, not necessarily NK, to work this 56 hour work week. As you have been made aware it is not the norm in this part of the country. Once again I am speculating. Knowing that NK is not a poor community, Kinder has sold his idea to the NKTC and here we are. Kinder is getting richer on our tax dollars!!! I cannot understand why they did not accept any of our proposed agreements with numerous concessions. To be honest with you, as a taxpayer, I am furious as are many others I have spoken to over the past few weeks. It is a senseless waste of our hard earned money. As to your point of worst case senerio working over 100 hours per week. Come on, where in America do you see people do such on a regular basis? As far as your feeling toward unions from the pension reform hearings...I truely wish you could see things from our side. The state wanted to take away/reduce a benefit that many have worked their entire career for. I don't know about you, but I am going to fight for that benefit. It is not todays working mans fault for what was negotiated in the past, but it is his right to fight to keep it! Just my feelings, I am sure you do not agree, but thankfully we have that right in this country (for now atleast).
NKGOP Watch June 11, 2012 at 04:23 AM
It's not whether ONE ff thinks 24 hour shifts are "ok" or not. It's about HOW it was implemented. The COURT decided it was implemented ILLEGALLY. (And now we learn, without the flip-side benefits afforded the places they cited as why 24 hours should be okay with the ff). NOW the question for YOU "concerned resident" dolan, hypothetically, would 24 hour shifts with all the other benefits afforded OC ff's cost ANY LESS than the original NK schedule? If not, then we REALLY ARE back at square one! Our hack town council really stepped in it, and one has to wonder if they are all too happy to screw the town and get their lawyer pals all these billable hours. It's such a game to Dolan Hueston and Stamm, any one of which if they moved next to me I would say "there goes the neighborhood"!
Concerned Resident June 11, 2012 at 11:52 AM
@chris: wow, seems it always comes back to me,me and me......possibly that is why there is an untrue illusion that ff's are politicking that they viewed as 2nd class. As is things are not sustainable and one way or another things will change. Tell me Chris, if the pension funds get to the point that there are not enough funds to cover distributions - what happens?? Reduce pensions accordingly?? Raise taxes??Will you also tell your kids that the taxes are escalating for your pension? Unrealistic promises were made by politicians and union leadership creating an escalating drain on all. Please watch the news to view the wave spreading across this country. As far as my scenario of working 100 hours, I was looking for verification or other from you which I did not receive. Seems skirting and or vague responses are a standard. Silence works wonders in answering many questions. Referring back to my original question it appears that you have never worked in the private sector and or are a business person. I could go on but unfortunately things seem to be going in the same ol’ direction. Ultimately the ff’s will force NK’s hand to another level If I may take a line from your comment, it is not todays working man’s fault for what was negotiated in the past, but it is his right to correct and make things reasonable! Just the majorities feelings, I am sure you do not agree, but thankfully we have that right in this country (for now at least).
Concerned Resident June 11, 2012 at 11:58 AM
@rhodey: if you wish to pay for it I will support your wishes. If you want the majority to pay for it, sorry. The fog and haze will lift if you stop drinking the kool-aid. Your comments make me suspicions.
Concerned Resident June 11, 2012 at 12:06 PM
@rhodey: possibly you should check with the chief or the town for answer to your questions. Again, you have the option of sending a check(s) to the town to pay for what you seek......shall I tell them to watch their mail??? How about pay as you go?? How about privatizing?? How about a volunteer dept.?? These and other options exist to alleviate much.
ru4real June 11, 2012 at 12:40 PM
@CR-why is it so difficult for you to accept that this TC has lost twice in legal proceedings. As an NK taxpayer I am fed up with the ill conceived (and obviously flawed) effort by this TC to waste my tax dollars. I want this TC to find the path to compromise and resolve this dilemma. I believe that it is the people's decision and it is their right to have the final word. The continued disruption that this controversy fuels will only result in more ill feelings and the end result is that the people of NK lose. This is not a win at all costs issue.
Mike June 11, 2012 at 01:29 PM
Title says it all..."Unions at war with math, reality" http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2012/jun/09/unions-at-war-with-math-reality/
NKGOP Watch June 11, 2012 at 02:35 PM
exactly. it's not whether cost reduction should be done, its HOW the town council majority (hueston dolan stamm) chose to do it, through expensive legal fights they lay in the lap of their lawyer friends like some kind of a present, while the rest of us pay for their dirty little war against our firefighters. it's truly nuts. and their hostile approach is exactly why the school and town didnt accomplish full technology consolidation. doilan/hueston/stamm are as costly to this town as their nk republican pal jim halley. if people hated halley for how he ruined nk, they should equally hate dolan hueston stamm, they do the same type of things. vote them OUT (and their secret stooges in the nkdems should be ferreted out too!)
Concerned Resident June 11, 2012 at 03:30 PM
Compromise is good, although it takes two to reach such. The propaganda and distortion has muddied the waters.
Concerned Resident June 11, 2012 at 03:38 PM
So true......optimism is growing as politicians are beginning to realize that the majority has had enough looking for change to benefit ALL not just a few. If one looks at the detail the truth becomes obvious.
Concerned Resident June 11, 2012 at 06:22 PM
@chris: I just received an interesting correspondence advising that you personally have a side business. Not that there is anything wrong with having your own business but I find your previous and or lack of responses interesting....very interesting. So do tell, how many employees might you have and are they represented by a union???? We call this peeling the opinion!
Chris Beattie June 11, 2012 at 10:10 PM
I am glad you are interested in my life outside of the fire department. I peraonally do not think my personal business has any relavance to this blog, however since you asked I guess I will tell. I have 20 unionized illegals working for me! Maybe I would be inclinded to honestly answer your question when yoy come out of your closet and reviel your identity...
Concerned Resident June 11, 2012 at 10:21 PM
@chris: did you not think I knew what you were up to ...come on! No interest in your personal life just ironies. Much is becoming so predictable. Looking forward to corresponding with you again tomorrow.
Concerned Resident June 12, 2012 at 11:35 AM
@chris: good morning, trust you had a nice evening. Hoping we can continue our dialog in helping me to improve my understanding. As you mentioned that with your personal side business "I have 20 unionized illegals working for me". Which union are your employees affiliated? Is there an issue with illegals being affiliated with the union? Have you ever had any issues with your employees or has all been good? Also, curious as to why you are interested in my identity? Is my identity important? Why so? I appreciate our past dialog while looking forward to continued dialog as I am learning much from you, thanks!
just wondering June 12, 2012 at 11:39 AM
fact : dollars x 24hoursr a day x 7 days a week= dollars example: 10 x 24 x 7=1680. It's fourth grade math. Regardless of how many shifts you have , if you pay 10 dollars an hour it is still going to cost you 1680.00 for each position. Fact the town is lying about how much they can really save or they can't do fourth grade math.
just wondering June 12, 2012 at 11:55 AM
for cr just wondering, if your car is running great do you bring it to the mechanic to be fixed?
just wondering June 12, 2012 at 11:56 AM
don't bother if the chief doesn't agree with the town manager he get's fired, go right to the town manager
Concerned Resident June 12, 2012 at 12:07 PM
@justwondering: either or should be ok as the chief and town manager as they don't always agree without hard feelings

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