PROVDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – It is still unclear whether Providence firefighters will be required to work an additional 14 hours a week beginning Wednesday.

Lawyers for the city and the firefighters union met briefly with R.I. Superior Court Judge Jeffrey A. Lanphear on Monday afternoon to discuss the status of their negotiations, before hurrying off to resume talks behind closed doors.

The union has requested that Lanphear block the Elorza administration from implementing its plan – to require that firefighters go from working an average of 42 hours per week to 56 hours – until a deal can be reached over how much workers will be paid. But the judge scheduled the next hearing on the matter for Aug. 3.

City lawyers Jeffrey Dana and Tim Cavazza and union lawyer Edward Roy all refused to say whether they have an agreement in place to put the brakes on the proposed changes this week, even though Elorza previously said he would implement the new schedules by July 1.

The lawyers all said negotiations were ongoing, but Roy acknowledged that there is a still a “sticking point” holding up an agreement. They said they spent much of the day at the bargaining table and planned to continue discussions Monday afternoon.

Paul Doughty, president of Local 799 of the International Association of Firefighters, did not respond to multiple requests for comment Monday.

In an interview Monday morning, Elorza stopped short of saying he won’t implement his proposed changes this week, but acknowledged he believes the negotiations are moving forward.

“The idea is to keep making progress with negotiations, so you have to set a deadline,” Elorza told WPRI.com. “So long as we continue to come together in good faith and making progress, and it has to be significant progress, then I’m content.”

While both sides remain cagey about the status of negotiations, 423 city firefighters are waiting in limbo.

Elorza has exercised his right to restructure the fire department to go from four platoons to three, but he pledged to hold off on executing the change until June 30 in an effort to reach a new contract with the union. The current contract is in place until June 30, 2017.

Under the city’s current four-platoon system, there are only 100 members on each platoon. Because the fire union contract requires 94 firefighters on duty at all times, the 100-member rule means just six have to be absent from work before members of other platoons are called in, earning overtime, or callback pay. While the city has spent an average of $9 million annually on callback since 2009, the budget that takes effect July 1 projects the city will spend $5.2 million on callback next year.

Elorza contends that moving to three platoons would nearly eliminate the need for callback because an average of 133 firefighters would be on each platoon. Over the last year, an average of 23 firefighters were absent – meaning sick, on vacation or on leave – for each shift. Doughty has argued that the city has gone over its callback budget because it has failed to hire enough firefighters in recent years.

If the firefighters are asked to work more hours, Elorza has said he wants to pay them additional compensation, but he has not indicated how much he is willing to pay. In North Kingstown, where similar changes were made to the work schedule, firefighters will eventually receive a 33% pay increase by the end of their current contract. While they contend that the deal only brings them to the hourly rate they earned before the changes, Elorza has called that agreement “fair.”

Doughty has said a 33% pay increase at the current standard rate of pay would cost the city about $8 million annually, mostly wiping out any savings that would be earned by eliminating callback.

Continue the discussion on FacebookDan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan