Saturday Night Move - Staffing Cut at Fire Stations in Providence (UPDATED)

Sunday, December 06, 2015

 

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Providence fire stations closed or not closed - that is the question.

The battle between Mayor Jorge Elorza and the Providence Firefighters Union has gone to an even higher level of conflict as the City of Providence reduced staffing at a number of fire stations and is making other staff changes across the City this Saturday night.

The Firefighters Union is claiming that the City was originally closing two stations. The City refutes the union's claims and said there was never a plan to close stations. 

According to Derek Silva, Vice President of International Association of Firefighters, Local 799, the city was going to be closing the fire stations located at Rochambeau Avenue and Reservoir Avenue, but less than an hour later Silva updated GoLocal because the City of Providence was changing the closing plan again.

"The city closed two stations tonight and drastically cut manpower. Closing four trucks total and reduced staffing on the others. They did it in violation of the [collective bargaining agreement]," said Silva." They reduced the shift by 20%."

Elorza spokesperson Evan Egnalnd said that the city "never cut staffing."

"The Mayor never cut staffing,  Firefighters either refusted callback or evaded orders," said England. 

Mayor's Spokesman Says Never Closed and Firefighters Are Refusing Assignments

"At no point were stations closed," said England. "Firefighters who would have been eligible for call back refused. Firefighter also avoided or evaded contact of orders."

"We’ve intercepted messages from firefighters who instructed others," said England. "We believe this is a coordinated action, this is illegal for firefighters.  Anyone caught coordinating in this will be prosecuted. As a result, two engines and town ladders are not being fully staffed," said England. "That is all."

Union President Says City is Misleading the Public

"I don't know why they made the switch so quickly, but I think it had to do with political pressure from council people," said President of the Union Paul Doughty in a phone interview this evening.
"Ten or so firefighters on duty who were asked if they wanted to work -- some said yes, some said no -- those firefighters would have violated the 38 hour rule if they worked." 

"The were having signs made that in the event someone went to those stations, to be put on the door that they were closed and to call 911 in the event of an emergency," said Doughty.

Silva also said he was informed that Rochambeau and Reservoir were going to be completely closed, but then got updated information.

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"They're closing Engine 10 at Broad Street to re-open Rochambeau," said Silva.  Another top ranked firefighter said that the Elorza administration switched the closing from the East Side to the Southside due to political pressure.

City will Prosecute

The city is threatening legal action against indiviual firefighters. "I was made aware that we did not have the [necessary] firefighters accepting callback for the shift to begin at 18h00.  I spoke with the Mayor and Pare at that time," said England.

England said he would have more on the the City's pursuit of determining if there was "concerted effort" by firefighters to avoid callback.  "We'll have more on that when we've looked into it," said England.

Doughty fired back at the Elorza administration and their mismanagement.

"It's going to continue.  Normally we have 94 on duty.  You can get some to stay for next shift.  Now you have 76, it's harder to make them stay," said Doughty.

"If they know who it is, and that's illegal, and they can prosecute."

Legal Battle

The relationship between the Firefighters' union and the Elorza Administration is currently strained being in the midst of a protracted legal conflict over Elorza’s staffing plan, which was intended to lower costs, but since its implementation has caused a multi-million dollar spike in overtime costs.

No Leadership

As GoLocal reported: 

The Fire Department is now being run by a police officer, as Elorza just demoted Acting Fire Chief Scott Mello, who had served in the role since July after previous Chief Clarence Cunha retired, and replaced him with Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare. 

“I think any failures lie at the feet of Mayor Elorza.  It's clear that the shift schedule change has caused consequences to the PFD of which he was unaware and for which he was unprepared,” said Paul Doughty with the Local 799.  “The impact of those shift changes are going about as well as his legal strategy - an abysmal failure."

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City Council President Luis Aponte said that he heard of the moves on Friday, which also included Elorza naming former Chief George Farrell - who had previously sought a disability pension from the city - as a managing consultant for the department. 

 

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was first published and up dated at 8:28 pm and 9:15 pm on Saturday, December 5, 2015.
 

Related Slideshow: Providence Firefighter Tweets

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Paul Doughty responds to a post by Elorza on another subject, to steer the fight back to the firefighters.

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A photo meme that was orginated by firefighters in social media, before being used on signs during a recent firefighter rally at City Hall.

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The fighfighters take to Twitter to convey their positions on a number of issues. 

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Local 799's Derek Silva tweets a cartoon "fantasty" Tweet with Elorza. 

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Elorza's post recognizing fire chief Cunha's service gets minimal interaction.

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On May 21, when Elorza announced the platoon shift, he tweeted instead about a volunteer event he attended -- and not of the firefighter decision.

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Other press coverage of Elorza is often commented on by Doughty on Twitter.

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Doughty uses Twitter to show the contrast of a prior Elorza statement, versus his current position. 

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A pro-union tweet garners significant Twitter interaction.

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Doughty takes to social media to tell firefighter supporters than any threats against the Mayor would not be tolerated.

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Doughty often comments on other actions by Mayor Elorza in an effort to bolster the firefighters' position.

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Doughty takes immediate social action after the Mayor weighs on about the recent court decision. 

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Media coverage on the fight is often retweeted by Doughty -- something which Elorza does not do with firefighters. 

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A pro-union post retweeted by Doughty; the firefighters often engage other unions' support.

 
 

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