2015-12-03 / Front Page

Labor Contracts Considered

By Barry Bridges

One month after Newport teachers and the School Committee ratified a new contract, the Newport City Council is poised to consider collective bargaining agreements for firefighters and certain managerial city employees.

On the agenda for discussion at the council’s Dec. 9 regular session are contracts for the International Association of Firefighters, Local 1080, and the Newport Municipal Employees Association, NEARI, Local 840. NEARI’s membership is comprised of about 24 active permanent city employees who Mayor Jeanne-Marie Napolitano described as middle managers. The previous contracts for both unions have expired.

Few specifics on the agreed-upon terms were known at press time, as the documents were not released pending a final review from the city’s legal staff. But the publicly posted agenda did indicate that the new agreements, if ratified by the council, would be effective retroactively from July 1, 2015. The firefighters’ contract would run for three years until June 30, 2018, while NEARI’s would initially run for one year, followed by a three-year period ending on June 30, 2019.

Many city employees are members of AFSCME, Local 911, Rhode Island Council 94, which is also negotiating a new contract.

While not elaborating on the substantive details of the two agreements on the council’s agenda, Napolitano told Newport This Week that negotiations have been ongoing. “We got though some difficult points. The best way to get it done is to keep talking,” she said. The council met in executive session on the issue as recently as Nov. 18. Terms were negotiated on the municipal side primarily by interim City Solicitor Christopher Behan and interim City Manager Joseph Nicholson.

David C. Hanos, president of Firefighters Local 1080, would only confirm that “both parties have agreed to a contract that is potentially for three years.” He reported that the firefighters have agreed to its terms and are “hopeful that it will be ratified by the city.”

Napolitano predicted that councilors would approve the agreements on Dec. 9.

The expiring firefighters’ contract was actually a one-year extension of a previous three-year agreement that ended on June 30, 2014. The pact gave firefighters a 1.7 percent pay raise from July 1, 2014 to June 30 of this year.

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