PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Mayors and town administrators across Rhode Island are protesting a bill they say would provide workers with so-called “lifetime” contracts.
The bill proposes contracts for municipal workers and teachers be automatically extended when they expire, even if both sides have yet to come to a new agreement.
If passed, the bill would guarantee an extension during the arbitration process.
Mayors and town administrators from the Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns spoke up Monday evening, arguing that the legislation would take away the urgency of negotiations, which could end up costing the taxpayers.
“In the end, it’s municipal leaders who have to balance our budgets and send out tax bills. We do not need the General Assembly deciding how we treat our taxpayers,” North Providence Mayor Charles Lombardi said.
“Contract continuation is not a democrat or republican issue. This bill will affect every single city and town across the state,” Cranston Mayor Allan Fung added.
Executive Director of the RI League of Cities and towns Brian Daniels said the bill would “burden municipalities and taxpayers for years to come.”
“Neither the General Assembly or the state would agree to a contract that would go on indefinitely. The state shouldn’t mandate that for cities and towns either,” Daniels said.
Eyewitness News reached out to the Woonsocket Teachers Guild, whose teachers have been working without a contract since June 2018.
President of the Woonsocket Teachers Guild Jeffrey Partington says they ultimately support the proposal.
“We are not allowed to strike as we are considered ‘essential personnel,'” he said in a statement. “But unlike the police and fire, we do not have binding arbitration to settle contract disputes so an impasse could go on for a very long time. This bill will level the playing field.”
Partington also said while the Woonsocket School Department has honored their expired contract, there’s always uncertainty.