PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — Firefighters in Pawtucket gathered outside of a private fundraiser for Mayor Donald Grebien Tuesday evening, demanding better working conditions and a contract.
President of the Rhode Island State Association of Firefighters (RISAFF) Joseph Andriole said the Pawtucket Fire Department has been working without a contract since 2016. The two sides are currently in arbitration after not being able to come to an agreement.
The picket comes following the temporary closure of Fire Station 3, which reportedly has poor drainage, a leaking roof and electrical issues.
In an email to Eyewitness News earlier this month, President for Fire Union Local 2621 Scott Giroux called the conditions a “health and safety hazard.”
Andriole said Grebien also wants to cut staffing.
“We want to be able to come home every night after a shift and when you cut engine companies and cut staffing, that directly affects our safety, as well as the safety of the residents,” Andriole said.
According to Andriole, the union is willing to come to a resolution, but Grebien is not.
“We’re trying to be as fair as possible with him, but he’s just not being fair with us or showing us any mutual respect,” Andriole said. “Come to the table and hear our concerns, we’re willing to roll up our sleeves and get a fair agreement for both sides, I don’t know if he is.”
Grebien tells Eyewitness News he has been willing to negotiate, but the union needs to be reasonable with its requests.
“Their demands are just too high and outrageous for the residents and we can’t afford to do that,” Grebien said.
Grebien also added that the firefighters were the ones who filed for arbitration rather than coming to an agreement with the city.
“We’ve been trying to for all this time,” Grebien said. “To have that common ground and be respectful…they’ve now brought in the state union, to make it a state issue, it really isn’t.”
The City of Pawtucket is scheduled to explain their side of the story to the arbitration panel in June. Grebien said as of right now, both sides are stuck in the arbitration process. There’s no established timeline on when this could be resolved.