NK Firefighters Victorious Yet Again

Not to be remiss in reporting important fire law headlines, North Kingstown Firefighters IAFF Local 1651 have won another round of their epic battle with the town of North Kingstown by prevailing at the state labor board on their unfair labor practice change. The ruling was made on July 31, 2013.

Unfortunately, the formal written decision has yet to be drafted by the board, so we do not know what the board’s reasoning was, nor what the remedy for the unfair labor practice will be. That is not stopping NK Town Councilwoman Elizabeth Dolan from vowing to appeal the ruling to court.

The essence of the union’s complaint is that the town failed to bargain in good faith over a major restructuring of hours and shifts. As is the case every state that recognizes collective bargaining (not to mention the entire private sector in all 50 states) when it comes to matters affecting “wages, hours and other terms and conditions of employment”, the employer cannot unilaterally impose its will. Such mandatory subjects have to be negotiated, bargained to impasse and (in the case of firefighters) taken to binding arbitration. That is labor law 101.

Instead, NK Firefighters were forced to go from a four shift 42 hour per week schedule to a three shift 56 hour per week schedule. Shifts were changed from 10 hour days and 14 hour nights to 24 hours shifts… all without being bargained. That is an extra 14 hours per week… every week…and pretty clearly is a change in hours… AT A MINIMUM!!!!

We hope to have the formal ruling in hand in 60 to 90 days and at that point there will be more to discuss.

Here is more on the story.

Here is the link to the previous NK victory.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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