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Council to Consider 24-Hour Shifts for Firefighters

A structural change in the fire department could have firefighters working 24-hour-long shifts.

The North Kingstown Fire Department could be facing radical changes in the New Year if a proposed law is passed by the North Kingstown Town Council. The new law, which is set for a public hearing on Jan. 9, would restructure the department and move firefighters from 10- and 14-hour shifts to 24-hour shifts, effective Jan. 1, 2012.

The new structure would have firefighters work a 24-hour shift (10-hour on-duty day shift followed by a 14-hour on-duty night tour) with the following 48 hours off, averaging a 56-hour work week. Though this would be 14 hours more a week than what NK firefighters currently work, there would be no extra compensation for those hours. The structural change would also reduce the number of platoons in the department from four to three. According to 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.

“This ordinance will save a very large sum of money for the town and it will introduce a structural change to the way the fire department is staffed,” said Town Manager Michael Embury.

It’s not the first time discussion of a 24-hour shift has been discussed..

“It’s bizarre and against the law,” said Fire Union President Ray Furtado. “We’re prepared to oppose it for the safety of our firefighters.”

Though the board found that the move would produce “a significant cost savings to the town,” it ruled that North Kingstown’s financial situation “does not mandate such a drastic change.”

But, with multimillion shortfalls expected for both the town and school departments, town officials are predicting steep cuts. According to Embury, $1.2 million will need to be cut from this year’s budget to next year’s. The proposed changes to the department could save the town anywhere from $800,000 to $1.1 million, he adds.

“Absent a contractual agreement that saves them the money we need, we need to have this implemented in order to get structural change and savings,” said Embury.

For Furtado, the introduction of this structural change as a law is ill timed as the town and fire union continue negotiations for this year’s contract. Furtado anticipates legal action if the measure is approved.

“The only beneficiaries in this process are the attorneys involved in the case,” said Furtado. “It’s a waste of money. It’s a shame.”

Paul Christman December 28, 2011 at 04:23 AM
@ MeanE My reply was based on your ? of whether ff's get to sleep at station and the notion it sucks to work more hours. All first responder's represent the 1st defense against any public hazard. It is not about compensation or total hours as much as it is about shift lengths and effectiveness. If TC had a clue what they were asking (assuming) they wouldn't think of it. RI's whole fire service in many ways relies on the statewide mutual system that is in place for any moderate/large scale incident now. Largely because most or all paid departments are understaffed now. Also, any sensitive position is regulated in terms of duty shifts and sleep cycles. These services are absolutely safety sensitive. It is about shift lengths not total hrs/week..
Dave December 28, 2011 at 01:39 PM
Kinder also recently represented the TC in filing suit against the SC with a 16 page complaint without even an attempt to discuss the matter and work something out with the SC....Judge told the parties to go away and try to work together (duh!)...Kinder got a nice payout.....i see a pattern here.
I have an interest in this December 31, 2011 at 08:28 PM
OK NOW I AM UPSET!!! SO the town of NK wants my husband to work an additional 14 hrs a week with no compensation. Let's just look at some numbers. . . Right his salary is based on 2,184(42x52) hrs. If he were to pick up an extra 14 hr shift every week, right now he'd be getting overtime(time & a half). That essentially is 21 paid hours or 1,092 hrs extra a year(21x52). YOU DO THE MATH: 2,184/2=1,092 1,092 is the EXACT amount that the town DOES NOT WANT TO PAY HIM FOR!! THIS IS HALF OF HIS SALARY NOT 1/3 AS I THOUGHT PREVIOUSLY!!!
Govstench December 31, 2011 at 11:55 PM
It is irresponsible to try to balance the books on the backs of the firefighters. If this town council and town manager thinks this is prudent management, then the taxpayers need new leadership. This will not work and will only lead to bigger problems down the road. The town needs to take the bull by the horns and start cutting the spending - on both sides - schools and municipal. All of the promises, sweet deals and other goodies are finally coming into clear view as the swamp continues to be drained. Forget bond issues unless you want to see the costs of borrowing to go up. Moody's will be tanking more towns on their irresponsible spending patterns and North Kingstown is no different. Get serious with addressing the budget but not at the cost of risking the lives of the public service employees - 24 hour shifts don't work.
Tom Crewse January 05, 2012 at 05:00 AM
This makes no "practical" sense. Hpothetically, yes but practically no. There are many many busy, large metropolitan fire departments around the nation that work 24 hour shifts. I work for one of them and you argument doesn't hold water simply because there are so many legitimate fire departments that operate within such a staffing model and do so very well. If your firefighters simply don't want to do it and feel they have the political might to control the direction, than so be it. However, the argument against must have merit.

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