A Warning-Response Disconnect in North Providence (for One)

North Providence Mayor Charles Lombardi has issued twenty layoff notices to public works and municipal employees that will go into effect unless their unions accept a five percent cut in salary and a fifteen percent health insurance contribution. The mayor’s had mixed results, thus far, with the police union coming up with $200,000 and the firefighters’ union going to court. It’s the argument of the latter — put forward elsewhere, recently — that strikes a discordant tone:

On Thursday night, the entire membership of the firefighters’ union voted against the cuts, according to the union’s president, John Silva.
The firefighters, who number about 100, voted for a package of concessions that would save the town about $85,000 between now and June 30, and about $390,000 over the next 15 months, Silva said.
But Lombardi said the town needs about $240,000 in concessions from the firefighters in the current budget year, which ends June 30.
The firefighters union secured a restraining order that would provide some level of layoff protection until Judge Mark A. Pfeiffer takes up the issue Tuesday morning.
Silva said the order would prevent the layoffs. Lombardi said the restraining order allows him to lay off as many as 22 firefighters.
Following the lead of Woonsocket firefighters, the union is arguing that the threatened layoffs would jeopardize their safety and that of the public.
“It’s a third of our force,” Silva said.

We should heed the advice of professional firefighters when it comes to the necessary provisions for our safety, of course, but there’s something that justifiably restrains public judgment. If firefighter and civilian safety is so terribly threatened by layoffs, then how can it not be worth a small cut in pay and reasonable healthcare contributions to prevent them?
Unionists would say that public safety workers would be in a disadvantageous negotiating position if underfunding were always leveraged against their conscience, and that’s a valid argument to be worked out through the give and take of politics and negotiations. But in the current circumstances, the disadvantage is too dramatically skewed the other way; the North Providence union can refuse the concession and turn to the court to stop detrimental cuts in staffing and services.

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Tom W
Tom W
12 years ago

>>On Thursday night, the entire membership of the firefighters’ union voted against the cuts, according to the union’s president, John Silva
Don’t be surprised if thIs “union democracy” vote was done in the open, with members having to “publicly” cast their votes in front of the watchful eyes of their coworkers and union bosses.
Union bosses call this “employee free choice.”
How else to explain why the least senior – who would be the first laid off – would in effect vote for their own layoffs?

Mike
Mike
12 years ago

Lombardi is a clown. He demanded 5% pay cut and 15% co-pays.
Notice how he DIDN’T announce what he caved for.
You can bet it was a WHOLE LOT less.
Hey Rhody-
Get ready for a 15% tax hike.

Patrick
Patrick
12 years ago

I saw the Woonsocket FF union guy on the news the other night. First the news guy said the union voted against pay cuts, then the union guy went on and said that he found it very scary that the town would choose money over safety and the people of the town would be less safe with layoffs
Huh? Can you say hypocrite? When the union chose to vote against a pay cut, isn’t that exactly what they did? They chose money over safety too, no? I understand why, but don’t use that argument in the other direction immediately after your vote. What a joke. To all the good firemen out there, it’s these guys who give you a bad name and give your union a negative connotation. Deal with it as long as you’re going to keep these people as your mouthpieces.

chuckR
chuckR
12 years ago

Can anyone reconcile the assertions that RI has among the highest numbers of firemen per capita and that each truck is understaffed?

EMT
EMT
12 years ago

Can anyone reconcile the assertions that RI has among the highest numbers of firemen per capita and that each truck is understaffed?
Are you suggesting that NFPA does not, in fact, require 4 or more personnel on each truck?
Since it does, then yes- most RI fire trucks are understaffed, your management-supplied statistics to the contrary.

Steve A.
Steve A.
12 years ago

Funny, I don’t see it as management-supplied statistics, I see it as too many peices of apparatus.
One less engine with the crew of that engine reassigned wouldn’t do anything to lower the per capita numbers, but there would be less engines understaffed.
All that said, the real solution is for communities to pool resources. At this point it’s the only option that can help cities and towns financially without compromising safety.

Phil
Phil
12 years ago

Steve A
No there’s another option. It would involve having a Governor who would actually wish to govern and take responsibility. The Federal government recognizes the need to help cities and towns all across the country so why are we saddled with a governor who is going in the opposite direction.
Also don’t be so cavalier about reducing fire and rescue apparatus. Time and distance seem to be important factors in successful outcomes. I believe that is how the current maps are drawn in cities and that there are also insurance implications for municipalities involving proper distribution of fire apparatus.

pat
pat
12 years ago

chuckR- and all the other uneducated people-
RI has one of the highest levels of FF per capita because EMS is included in this number. Almost every other state in the US separates Fire and Ems. If you total the FF’s and EMS workers together in those states, RI is at the bottom. Spread the word. Another great spin to make RI PROFESSIONAL FIREMEN look bad.

EMT
EMT
12 years ago

“Also don’t be so cavalier about reducing fire and rescue apparatus. Time and distance seem to be important factors in successful outcomes. I believe that is how the current maps are drawn in cities and that there are also insurance implications for municipalities involving proper distribution of fire apparatus.”
Absolutely. Less apparatus = less coverage = higher ISO rating (lower is better) = higher residential and commercial insurance rates = less people and businesses moving into town, and more moving out.

Steve A.
Steve A.
12 years ago

Just to be clear, I don’t suggest any town or city slash and burn stations or apparatus. My point was that some probably could minimize apparatus and relocate staff without impacting public safety. I haven’t pulled out the maps and marked off station locations but I’m not quick to believe union “data” on this either.
The thing that doesn’t make sense is how trucks statewide can be understaffed AND we have the largest per capita staffing. Someone is coaxing numbers somewhere. Can’t wait to see/hear the truth someday.

EMT
EMT
12 years ago

Steven A: deduct the firefighters providing EMS (since they’re not available for actual firefighting when the call comes in), and you’ll see that we’re not, per capita, even close to overstaffed.

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