The North Kingstown Town Council has postponed a public hearing on a shifts. According to Town Council President Elizabeth Dolan, the town looks to focus on other measures to help lower the department’s costs through its current contract negotiations with the fire union.
“Essentially we’re now at the point where we’re having substantive discussions with the fire union [during contract negotiations] and we’d prefer to hold off until we’ve exhausted all opportunities and options,” said Town Council President Elizabeth Dolan.
The proposed ordinance would mean 24-hour-long shifts for firefighters, followed by 48 hours off. Currently, North Kingstown firefighters work 10- and 14-hour shifts.
“The ordinance is the last resort and if we can resolve this with positive negotiations, that’s what both sides want,” said Dolan.
The changes would add 14 hours to firefighters’ work week, up from 42 to 56 hours per week, without compensation. The idea for the 24-hour shift was initially brought up during arbitration between North Kingstown’s fire union, Local 1651, and the Town of North Kingstown.
"We maintain that their action through ordinance to change our work schedule is against state law and we're prepared to defend that position with all legal means at our disposal," said Ray Furtado, president of Local 1651.
The structural change would also reduce the number of platoons in the department from four to three. According to Town Manager Michael Embury, the department is short eight to nine members. Under the proposed structure, there would be no new hires, just "floaters" that would help reduce overtime. Embury adds that the changes could save the town anywhere from $800,000 to $1.1 million.
"I'm encouraged that they've decided to put off the ordinance while our negotiations continue," said Furtado. "We're hopeful that we'll get a resolution that's in the best interest of all."
The rescheduled public hearing on the proposed change will be held on Monday, Jan. 23.