City appeals ruling on firefighters' pension

Posted

It appears the courts will have the final say as to whether firefighters hired on or after July 1, 2012, are members of the city’s Tier II pension plan, as are city municipal employees and police hired of that date, or whether they are members of the more lucrative pension plan of their veteran co-workers.

It has been estimated including 44 firefighters in the richer of the two pension plans could cost taxpayers an additional $2.6 million.

In June, the city filed suit in Superior Court contesting an arbitration ruling in favor of Warwick Firefighters Local 2748. The ruling found that in spite of an ordinance establishing the Tier II plan – which was approved by the City Council in May 2011 – the plan was not included in the firefighters’ collective bargaining agreement and is therefore inapplicable.

In its appeal of the arbitration award made in March, the city argues firefighters failed of follow the deadline to grieve implementation of Tier II and that the “arbitrators’ award was irrational, in excess of their authority, and rendered in manifest disregard of the contract, applicable law and public policy.”

Further, Robinson & Robinson attorneys representing the city questioned the arbitrator’s finding that the grievance was “procedurally arbitrable notwithstanding the Union’s failure to proceed to arbitration in timely fashion.” Additionally, the city argues the award is unlawful because “the arbitrators encroached upon the non-delegable statutory authority of the City Council to enact and implement legislation governing the pension system.”

On the matter of timing and failing to timely file a grievance, an issued raised in arbitration, the arbitrators – with Michael Ryan acting as the neutral arbitrator – ruled it was “acceptable” that then union president William Lloyd waited until the city implemented Tier II and its reduced level of employee contribution to file a grievance. The arbitrators also disagreed with the city that retired Chief Edmund Armstrong had the authority to “stay the proceeding of the grievance until further notice while the parties negotiate a possible resolution.”

Under the Tier II pension, firefighters would be required to work an additional five years – 25 years in total – to earn their pension and reduce the compensation rate by 3-4 percent of their pay so as to make a more sustainable system. The 2012-2015 collective bargaining agreement assumed the Tier II pension applied, as that had been set by ordinance. But then as the city implemented the pension reforms in 2014, the union grieved.

At the time of the arbitration ruling, Mayor Joseph Solomon said, “It means that Scott Avedisian and his administration dropped the ball on what was good, effective pension reform for the city and its taxpayers. During the negotiations for the 2012 through 2015 and the 2015 through 2018 contracts, the union and Mayor Avedisian did not include the Tier II pension language in the contract.”

Asked last Wednesday about the status of talks with the firefighters, Solomon said, “I haven’t inked anything, no. I guess discussions and arbitration is still going on with the Avedisian arbitration [for the contract that expired June 30, 2018], the interest arbitration for the Avedisian administration. We’ve commenced our arbitration [for a contract starting July 1, 2019] with the Solomon administration. The parameters are different between the two because the prior administration suggested a raise but I can’t go into it.”

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Jimmy

Funny thing about that is the best “city side” attorney out there declined to take the case (Ragusta). Throwing bad money after good, why not negotiate in good faith.The mayor already stated it was implemented properly. Negotiate and move on.

Thursday, August 22
Scal1024

I am all for saving $ and pension reform and I often comment on how the current system is unsustainable. That said, I have no idea what the City of Warwick is trying to argue here. They are worried about the potential $2.8 million these 44 WFD members will cost them? Well what happens if the City loses in court? Where will that $ come from? You can add court costs and more to that $2.8 million.

I have said this before but I truly feel the Mayors staff is letting him down. It seems he has made rushed political decisions that haven't paid off in the short or long term. I supported this Mayor in the last election because I felt his experience would be important during difficult financial times. He knew City government. That experience has not paid off so far and the Mayor and his staff deserve SOME heat there. If the City is in such fair standing, as was suggested recently, why would the City be squabbling over a few million $?

Real leadership in this case would've been to sit with the Projo or Beacon and say "Look, am I happy with the ruling? Of course not...BUT I am confident we can get back to the table to get something done that will help our City in the long term. For anyone who says "well then what leverage does the City have?" They have no leverage in this case, it seems they are fighting an uphill battle. I hope the Mayor and his staff recognize we cannot fix our financial problems through the judicial system. Sure there are cases that could end up in court but let's not fight losing battles.

Thursday, August 22
About time

It's about time the WFD aka thieves are exposed.

They make illegal agreements and when exposed they scream foul. They have been over payed for years and it's about time the taxpayers say we have had it.

Both Armstrong and Lioyd are stand up guys. Lloyd didn't have the guts to go on talk radio and justify his letter campaign to get a person fired from his job and Armstrong was too busy standing behind Scottie.

It's time to privatize the WFD.

Thursday, August 22
Roger

Privatize? I heard some dumb suggestions, but that might be the dumbest.

Thursday, August 22
Fed up

Is it that Armstrong was standing behind Scottie, or was Scottie standing behind Armstrong? Rumor has it that depending on the day, one of them was bending over for the other. The evidence suggests that there was more than a "municipal" relationship. Hence, the collusion, contract manipulation, and the covering of each others butts. (No pun intended)

Thursday, August 22
Roger

Really, your gonna make a homophobic slur as a joke. Lots of class. No wonder the village idiots (Cote, cushman, Stacia) have zero followers.its been 10 years of your crap and no one has ever believed any of you. EVER WONDER WHY

Thursday, August 22
Cat

I am concerned about the amount of money it will cost us to lose the case in court. I think money would be better spent going back to the table and negotiating in good faith. But why would we spend money wisely starting now?

Friday, August 23
Look at ALL facts

Who was taking care of who???

This whole "oppsie doopsie we forgot to sign this part" crap is fooling no one. This looks very deliberate to me, and the Warwick Taxpayers are on the hook for MILLIONS because of an "oppsie doopsie" wording "mistake' by Avedisian admin that almost cannot possibly be by accident.

Friday, August 23
Jimmy

Tier 2 was discussed though NEVER agreed too. Simply put the city decided to implement something that wasn’t agreed too. The union had to wait to file because it in their eyes there was no Tier 2 then years later city hired and started taking out different pension payments. It’s very clear cut, not one was hiding anything. The arbitrator simply ruled that the city cannot implement a new plan without negotiating it into a contract. The city is throwing more money at a losing situation.

Friday, August 23
But.... Was it touted?

Jimmy, was it touted at the time as avedisian saving money for the taxpayers? was it touted as "fiscally responsible stewardship"? was it touted, THEN found to not exist? awaiting your reply...

Friday, August 23
Daydreambeliever

In the spring of 2012 the FD union came to the members with a proposal from the city regarding the next contract period.

The union never introduced this pension 2 tier 2 language at the meetings. The members voted to what was presented to them.

Lo and behold when the contracts were printed somehow it was included in it. The members were very upset as they had never heard of it.

The union didn't file a grievance because at that time no one had been harmed.

Well the city decided to start withdrawing the new system and that's when the FD filed a grievance. No shenanigans at all.

The union caught heat from the members and still is to this day regarding.

Friday, August 23
Poor firefighter

So Jimmy states that the city cannot implement a new plan without negotiating it into a contract, yet the union can change the language of the contract to be paid more money on unused vacation and unused sick time, than was negotiated in the contract, and not disclosed in the fiscal note? How is that right?

Friday, August 23
right on

The city healthcare actuary said in 2016 that a retired fireman will cost the taxpayers $568000 in healthcare benefits.

This is one taxpayer who says "Hell No" eliminate this benefit tomorrow.

Friday, August 23
Jimmy

Poor Firefighter, you are 100% wrong. NO ONE CAN CHANGE THE CONTRACT. The contract (the edited one) is locked away in a safe in the mayors office. NO ONE HAS ACCESS EXCEPT THE MAYOR. Stop with the lies. lol one believes any of you.

Friday, August 23
wwkvoter

Jimmy, isnt any contract between the public and a labor bargaining unit, or ANY entity considered public information????

Why would it be locked away?

Friday, August 23
Jimmy

Wwkvoter,

The version of the contract that can be EDITED I’m saying. The union does not have any access to edit or change the master contract.

Saturday, August 24
Jimmy

Wwkvoter,

The version of the contract that can be EDITED I’m saying. The union does not have any access to edit or change the master contract.

Saturday, August 24
wwkvoter

OK I get it. But the public can SEE any contract, right? But the only way to change it is after negotiation, agreement by both sides, signed by mayor, and ratified by our city council, only THEN it comes into effect. THAT copy is the final, official, operative contract, and the public can access it (by the web?)

What is the web link to see our contracts?

Monday, August 26
Jimmy

Wwkvoter,

It’s on the city website, plus you can google any city contract and it will show up. The newest 2015-2018 fire contract is the latest because negotiations are ongoing.

Monday, August 26
SaltyJake

So, Ragusta won't take the case. That means its a loser for the city. Why waste MORE taxpayer money little Joey? Pension provisions are a negotiated item. The city cannot arbitrarily enact any changes, but they did. The Firefighters Union filed a grievance, and won. Too bad for Mayor Joey, he has to live with it or negotiate a change. And, a city ordinance will not supersede a contractual clause. As for timing of the grievance filing, you are not grieved until there has been a violation of a contract clause. The Union HAD to wait until a member was grieved to file. Its really basic labor law, nothing secret or underhanded as the current clown mayor would have you believe. Hopefully this time during negotiations with the Firefighters Union little Joey will not leak the information to the press ahead of a vote like last time. Or Joey, just negotiate in good faith with the Union. But we all know that would be too hard for you to do and there would be no blame to cast unless it was upon yourself. Time to start acting like a Mayor instead of a petulant little child.

Thursday, August 29