Municipal officials from around the state are opposing legislation that would make fire department staffing subject to collective bargaining. They say the bill effectively eliminates their power to control the budget.
Mayors and town managers say they should have control over schedules for firefighters, to cut down the cost of overtime. Legislation now pending at the statehouse would require collective bargaining for schedule changes.
Speaking at the statehouse, Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza says overtime payment is a pervasive problem in city finances, and leaders need the flexibility to change shifts without firefighters’ input.
"This callback and overtime system is costing the city of Providence between 7.5 million and over 11 million dollars per year," said Elorza.
Elorza already announced plans to change shifts. Currently firefighters in the city work on a four-shift structure. Elorza said that can cause undue amounts of overtime because four-shifts require fewer firefighters on each shift, so if even a small few absent others need to be called on on overtime.
Firefighters in Providence have recently protested plans to change their work schedules. Paul Valletta, state representative for the Rhode Island State Association of firefighters say want to sit down with leaders before changes are made.
"We're asking for a say in the shifts we work. These shifts are not healthy to firefighters, and we have a right to talk about them."
They say the new schedule requires an unsafe number of work hours and firefighters believe their union should be able to negotiate their working conditions.
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