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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Firefighters get burned by town

No Settlement as Heated Accord Turns Town Against Firefighters

20140315_125456 (2)Text and photos by Tracey C. O’Neill

EDITOR’S NOTE: You would think that men and women who put their own lives on the line every day to save lives and property of others would get more respect and appreciation – and not just when they actually GIVE their lives. Veteran journalist and occasional Progressive Charlestown contributor Tracey O’Neill has been closely following the maltreatment of firefighters in North Kingstown by their own Town Council for months. Here is a truncated version of her story on the latest outrage.

North Kingstown - As early as April 1, Elizabeth Dolan, North Kingstown Town Council President said the Town would continue its course of litigation with its firefighters union, IAFF Local 1651 NKFFA in the state’s Supreme Court. Dolan reiterated the Town’s intention at a Town Council meeting on Monday evening.

In an email response concerning the Town’s mailing of correspondence and settlement offer dated March 27, 2014 directly to its firefighters – International Association of Firefighters Local 1651, North Kingstown Firefighters Association – Dolan indicated that the union leadership had failed to respond to a Town settlement offer.

While Ray Furtado replied with a counteroffer, it was in response to a prior draft and, more importantly, without any indication that the membership has/had met and discussed our proposal as proposed,” said Dolan. “Unfortunately, the Monday Noon deadline has passed, so our good faith effort to again reach a settlement has met with non-response. We will await the Supreme Court decision this fall.”

Dolan’s written intention to carry the acrimonious and embroiled battle to the Supreme Court comes on the heels of several Union favorable decisions at the Superior Court and State Labor Relations Board (SLRB) levels.

Superior Court Judge Brian Stern and the SLRB ordered the Town to return its firefighters and departmental structure to that which existed at the end of the 2010-2011 contract year. Final judgment was entered by Stern as recently as January 6, 2014.   All orders are presently stayed due to the Town’s pending Supreme Court appeals.

Union disagrees with Town’s assertions

Coupled with its decision to proceed with litigation, was an embittered assertion that that the Town was forced to proceed to work outside the boundaries of the Union and its executive board in order to have its offer heard and that the Union further failed to respond to the Town’s settlement offer.

The March 27 letter averred that it was the Town’s understanding that the Union ratified the offer and then subsequently asked the membership to ratify the offer.

“Enclosed is the settlement proposal that we were told your union body also voted to ratify last week.”

In the next paragraph,

“We ask that you vote to ratify it.”

Dolan further indicated that the Town hadn’t received a response from the Union, and then that the Union had responded, but it wasn’t to the correct settlement offer.

According to Union President, Raymond Furtado in a phone interview on April 1, a majority of the Local 1651 membership met on March 18 to discuss settlement talks between the Union and Town. Furtado said there was no ratification and that there were outstanding issues to be negotiated.

When asked for a response to Dolan’s commentary and intention to proceed in the state’s highest court, Furtado said he was without a firm foundation to speak as to the Town Council’s intent. Having received no formal indication from the Town or legal counsel, Furtado gave the following statement:

“Once again, I am surprised by the bizarre and unorthodox methods that the Town seems to want to employ as opposed to sitting down and coming to a reasonable solution for everyone” said Furtado.

There’s lots more. To read all of the article, click here.