Firefighter contract needs to be vetted

Posted 1/25/23

To the Editor,

This time, Warwick Firefighter Contract needs to be properly vetted.

With the revelation that language that violated federal guidelines was allowed in the last contract, council …

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Firefighter contract needs to be vetted


To the Editor,

This time, Warwick Firefighter Contract needs to be properly vetted.

With the revelation that language that violated federal guidelines was allowed in the last contract, council leadership must not make the same mistake and allow this to happen again at the January 30, 2023 ratification public hearing.

Last week the story broke that portion of the 2019 Warwick Firefighter contract rushed through ratification has resulted in portions of the agreement not being executed by the administration.

 The Other Post Employment Benefit (OPEB), contract provisions for retiree healthcare were touted to save taxpayers millions of dollars in the future. Taxpayers showed that this just was not true. But that didn’t matter to Councilors McAllister, Howe, Sinapi, Travis, and McElroy who ignored these warnings and pulled every trick in the book to ram that contract through.

 Councilman Ed Ladouceur led the charge to challenge the administration and the five council members. He methodically showed that provisions in the contract violated federal OPEB guidelines. Listen to the clip for excerpts from his testimony. He was also ignored! Link to his testimony: https://youtu.be/b4hupqcuHVg

Firefighters in attendance gave standing ovations for these contract provisions. So, what happened?

On Jan. 13 we learned through a freedom of information request that the administration decided to not implement those OPEB provisions.

 How could the administration do this without going through the proper legal requirements to change the contract?

 A few years ago, we learned that former mayor Scott Avedisian’s administration conducted secret side deals with the fire department to change the terms of the contract. The problem with this approach is that it’s not legal. This has cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

 Mayor Picozzi should have notified the council and re-opened negotiations with the fire union to correct the problematic language. Instead, it appears he unilaterally decided not to follow those provisions in the contract.

 The language could have been corrected and that re-negotiated agreement should have been ratified by the firefighter union and presented to the Warwick City Council in a public hearing to also ratify it.

 That didn’t happen. A full investigation needs to be undertaken to determine who know what, when did they know it and was any unlawful action taken to simply ignore provisions of a legally ratified contract that could potentially hold taxpayers liable.

 This action underscores the importance of this new fire contract being fully vetted. There are serious problems with language in this contract. However, will council leadership limit participation so that these issues are not allowed to be identified and discussed?

 That could happen under the current ten-minute time limit placed on taxpayers and council members when discussing any topic.

 That’s unacceptable. If an individual asks relevant non-redundant questions, there should be no time limit.

 Taxpayers cannot afford to have another firefighter contract pass with problematic language in it. We can’t afford incorrect analysis that does not disclose the actual cost of the contract to taxpayers.

 Councilman Tim Howe, Bill Foley and Vinny Gebhart all on the finance committee and Council President Steve McAllister will be the key individuals who will determine how the January 30, fire contract ratification meeting will be conducted. They need to hear from you.

 Please call them and the other council members and tell them not to rush through ratification. Tell them that the ten-minute time limit needs to be waived.

 Tell them if language issues are uncovered and financial information is found to be incomplete, that the contract needs to be rejected until these issues are corrected by the Picozzi administration and the firefighter union.

Robert Cushman


letter, letters


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