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
80 Boston Neck Road
North Kingstown, RI 02852