Providence Firefighters’ Longer Workweek Starts; No Agreement With Union

PROVIDENCE, RI – City firefighters began a longer work week Sunday morning, as Mayor Jorge Elorza’s disputed restructuring of the Providence Fire Department went into effect at 8 a.m.

“There were no reports of any problems,” Elorza spokesman Evan England said about the change from a four-platoon shift structure to three platoons.

Under the new system, which Elorza implemented to reduce overtime expenses, Providence firefighters will work the same sequence of two 10-hour day shifts and two 14-hour night shifts each week.

But with one fewer platoon, firefighters will only get two days off at the end of their work week instead of four days off. The change effectively increases the length firefighters’ average annual workweek by 33 percent. Elorza estimates the change will save the city $5 million during the next full fiscal year.

The change in shift structure has been fought from the outset by the Providence firefighters union, which has gone to Superior Court to try to block it.

To compensate firefighters for the increase in work hours, Elorza offered a pay increase, although he could not reach a deal with the union.

In lieu of an agreement, Elorza instituted a fully pensionable 8-percent pay hike for firefighters that became effective with the shift change at 8 a.m.

Both sides are expected in Superior Court Monday afternoon for a status conference on the union lawsuit.

Although the city and union had been negotiating on Friday, England said Sunday morning he was not currently aware of any talks.

Providence Firefighters union President Paul Doughty said via text message: “No comment. No one is talking.”

From The Providence Journal