August 23, 2018
For Immediate Release:
EAST GREENWICH, RHODE ISLAND – The Superior Court today issued its decision, denying the declaratory relief sought by the Town, which had requested a ruling on the ability to reorganize the Fire Department platoon structure from a 4-platoon, 42-hour workweek to a 3-platoon, 56-hour workweek mid-contract. The Town disagrees with the Court’s decision and is considering an appeal.
East Greenwich Town Council President Sue Cienki said: “This decision extends the cost the taxpayers will have to pay by delaying our implementation of structural changes to the Fire Department and is disappointing. Since July 1st, the beginning of this fiscal year, the Town is averaging $22,195 per week to cover approximately 512 hours of weekly overtime that is spread primarily among 13 firefighters; annualized that will work out to more than 26,000 hours of overtime at a cost of $1.2 million this fiscal year alone. This is unsafe for the citizens of East Greenwich and for the firefighters and cannot continue in the long term. ”
Cienki noted that the Court has indicated the Town may reorganize the Fire Department at the end of the current collective bargaining agreement.
In the ruling (pg. 34) the Court said: “At the expiration of the contract—June 30, 2019—the Town can reorganize the EGFD in any manner that they believe best serves the people of East Greenwich.”
“Over the past year, Town Manager Corrigan has identified specific cost-drivers for the Fire Department operations that must be addressed, if we are to continue providing high level services for those who live here,” said Cienki. “As a result of this ruling, the Town now has the legal authority to consider several alternative fire suppression and EMS options including moving to 3-platoon, 56-hour workweek; a volunteer model; privatization of services or entering into contracts for shared fire and EMS services, to be implemented on July 1, 2019.”
Cienki continued: “It is clear the current system is unsafe for the public, unsafe for the fire fighters and is fiscally unsustainable. Since the Town Council has shed light on the union’s sweetheart deal that costs the taxpayers of East Greenwich more than $1.2 million in overtime costs this year alone and creates safety issues for the firefighters themselves, our goal has been to restore public safety services efficiently and safely in a way that is responsible for a town of 13,000 people.”
On Monday evening, the Council will convene in Executive Session to review the decision and consider its options moving forward.