WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — Firefighters in Warwick are still waiting to learn the fate of a new contract — which they’ve been working without for more than two years.
Warwick City Council held a special meeting Friday night to discuss the new contract, but it didn’t get far after the process in which the meeting was called was brought into question by the city council’s attorney.
The special meeting was called earlier this week by five of the council’s nine members “on behalf of Mayor Joseph Solomon,” according to Warwick City Council President Steven Merolla.
Merolla said he learned of the meeting when he was served by a constable at his law office on Wednesday.
At the meeting Friday, Merolla said he felt the process to ratify a new contract was rushed and he can’t support the contract the way it’s currently written.
“These contracts mean something, they set the budget for years to come,” Merolla said. “When you pass a three-year contract, you’re locked in at 80% of your fixed cost — that’s why this is so important.”
The three-year contract has a reduction of two personal days, one holiday and four sick days. It also has the city’s first Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB) Trust Fund to pay for post-employment benefits.
Councilors didn’t get far during Friday night’s meeting after deciding to adjourn over concerns that, because not all of the councilors were properly notified, they were breaking the city charter.
“It’s either do it the Friday before the week of Christmas, or do it the week of Christmas, or just kick the can even further and not many people do two meetings in one week in January,” Councilor Timothy Howe argued.
Howe said he was one of the councilors that called for the meeting and said he feels it’s important to address the contracts right away.
“I felt like this was something we didn’t want to backlog again, we had it in the summer,” Howe said. “That really stops services in the city for our constituents.”
Merolla argued that they need more time to get it right before approving a new contract.
“I think it’s very important to have a breather, if you will, for everybody to look at things and examine things, and maybe get more information,” he said. “I don’t think rushing it through would have been a good move.”
Solomon released a statement Friday night agreeing with the council’s decision to adjourn for the sake of transparency.
“I respect the council majority’s attempt to do the people’s business and their honesty and commitment to transparency, which has been a priority of my administration,” Solomon said. “I stand by this agreement and after two nights of public comment, I look forward to the council voting on this issue.”
The Warwick Firefighter’s Union President Michael Carreiro said he supports the contract and believes the council has had plenty of time to review it.
The next city council meeting is scheduled for Jan. 6.