The North Kingstown Town Council bargained in bad faith with local fire fighters when it imposed 24 hour shifts without negotiations, according to a leaked decision by the state Labor Relations Board. Town Council President and Labor Relations Board member Liz Dolan confirmed the leak to NK Patch this morning saying, “From the town’s perspective, we were totally expecting this.”
The NK Town Council imposed 24 hour shifts on the fire fighters after they were unable to negotiate a new contract with them. Dolan told Patch the Council had the authority to do so under the Town Charter. She also said it is rare that the Labor Relations Board is overturned. Dolan recused herself from the Labor Relations Board vote.
“We will appeal it and we will ask the District Court judge for a stay,” she told Patch.
North Kingstown, a middle class suburb with traditionally very contentious local politics, has taken a decidedly anti-organized labor approach to balancing its budget. Last summer, the School Committee outsourced its custodial staff to a private company from Tennessee. The custodians have re-organized as a collective bargaining unit, and it is still unclear if the switch will save money.
NK also hired infamous anti-labor lawyer Dan Kinder to act as its legal counsel. Kinder is best known for successfully defending East Providence against allegations that its cost-cutting measures violated collective bargaining agreements, but he cost the taxpayers of EP more than a million dollars in doing so.
The 24-hour schedule for fire fighters would mean an additional 728 hours a year along with an average $5 an hour pay cut. The fire fighters, who had agreed to less severe pay cuts, are seeking $1.4 million in damages from the town.
Last week fire fighter and union president Ray Furtado tweeted, “Through July 23, 2013, amount of unpaid wages to
@NK_Fire members nearing $2.1 million due to Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) @IAFFNewsDesk.”