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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Justice delayed

Supreme Court Just Says No, Consolidates Firefighters’ Appeals
Providence – The State Supreme Court just said “no” on Thursday to the North Kingstown Firefighters’ request to the High Court to vacate, modify or clarify the terms of its May 10, 2013 order. Denying the Union’s motion and consolidating the appellate cases, the Supreme Court held the town’s firefighters at status quo.

The Union, in an emergency motion on October 11, requested action by the Supreme Court to allow proceedings to move forward in the lower court and to allow for employment of the State Labor Relations Board (SLRB) decision returning the Town’s firefighters to their previous schedule and platoon structure.

The SLRB order resulted from the Town of North Kingstown’s March 2012 unilateral implementation of structure, shift and wage changes outside of the parameters of collective bargaining and in violation of Rhode Island laws establishing firefighter’s labor action rights and procedures. The state labor board found the Town acted in “bad faith” when it implemented the changes and failed to employ “good faith bargaining practices” throughout a lengthy and unsuccessful bargaining process.

The latest Supreme Court order, addressed its May decision, staying (effecting a delay in proceedings of) a December 2012 lower court order in favor of reinstatement of the prior departmental structure and award of back pay and damages.

“The emergency motion of the International Association of Firefighters Local 1651, to vacate, modify or clarify the stay issued by this Court in its Order of May 10, 2013, as prayed, is denied. These appeals are hereby consolidated with the Town of North Kingstown v. North Kingstown Firefighters, Local 1651, et al., No. 13-96-A, for further proceedings before this court.”

The Union request was predicated on the fact that the Supreme Court had not specifically addressed any subsequent action of the SLRB as to its pending Unfair Labor Practices complaints against the Town.

Union firefighters, having received two favorable decisions, first from Superior Court Judge Brian J. Stern in his “Unring the Bell” order and then the most recent State Labor Relations Board, hoped the high court would provide an actuated end to the lengthy court and administrative process.

“It was our effort toward expediting the process of implementing the State Labor Relations Board order,” said Union President, Raymond Furtado regarding the Union motion. “Their (SLRB) determinations were based on findings of fact. Findings of fact are conclusive. The board determined that the Town acted in bad faith.”