The Town of North Kingstown versus the North Kingstown Fire Fighters was dealt with in two courts Thursday, when the state Supreme Court denied an emergency motion by the NK fire fighters and Superior Court Judge Stern set up a "briefing schedule" on other, connected issues. The fundamental issue in the cases in both courts was the town's unilateral implementation of a 24-hour shift schedule and decrease in pay for the fire fighters.
According to the town, contract negotiations were at an impasse and the Town Charter gave the Town Council the "management" right to set the schedule. The NK fire fighters, alternatively, have argued that the town did not bargain in good faith.
After Judge Stern ruled in December 2012 that the town needed to "unring the bell," i.e. undo the new shift schedule, the town appealed to the Supreme Court. That court imposed a stay on Judge Stern's decision in May, pending the outcome of other litigation. Since then, the State Labor Relations Board issued a ruling ordering the "immediate" restoration of the former shift schedule.
Judge Stern, in a decision issued earlier this month, told the union, the town, and the moderator, to find out from the Supreme Court if that court's stay extends to rulings made by himself and by the State Labor Relations Board. The sitting judge on the Supreme Court refused to hear the case, sending it back to Judge Stern.
On Friday, Stern set up the briefing schedule, with briefs from all three parties due by Nov. 15.
When reached Friday, fire fighter union president Ray Furtado said, "iI's not really a setback, it's just a routine denial of a motion."