Town officials plan to appeal a decision made by a Superior Court judge that would return North Kingstown firefighters to their former work schedules. According to Town Manager Michael Embury, the town plans to seek of stay for implementation of the order in Supreme Court and then file an appeal. On Wednesday, the town's request for a stay was denied by Superior Court Judge Brian Stern.
Earlier this week, . According to North Kingstown Fire Union President Ray Furtado, both sides are expected to appear in Rhode Island Supreme Court Thursday afternoon for a conference. There, a Supreme Court judge will decide whether or not to grant or deny the request for a stay.
If the request is denied, firefighters will return to their old work schedules Monday morning at 12:01 a.m. Since March 2012, NK's firefighters have been working 24-hour shifts following the passage of a new ordinance by the North Kingstown Town Council in January 2012. The ordinance mandated 24-hour shifts for the town's firefighters, increasing the work week from 42 to 56 hours, eliminating one platoon and decreasing firefighters' hourly wages. The new ordinance was implemented in March 2012 and, since then, the town and fire union (Local 1651) have been embroiled in a series of court battles.
In December 2012, Judge Stern ordered the town to "unring the bell," stating that the council did not have the right to make those unilateral changes to the fire department after losing the issue in arbitration a year before.
According to Furtado, these changes have put a burden on the town's firefighters, forcing some to work double shifts due to understaffing. Furtado added that, since the ordinance's implementation back in March 2012, the town is now on the hook for approximately $1.4 million in backpay.
Following Stern's order to "unring the bell," both sides returned to the bargaining table to renegotiate. .