WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — After arbitrators ruled in favor of Warwick’s firefighters’ union in the city’s years-long battle over their pension benefits, Mayor Joseph Solomon is placing the blame on the administration that preceded his.
In a news conference Tuesday afternoon, Solomon said a paragraph missing from the last two firefighter contracts will inevitably cost taxpayers more than $2.5 million.
According to Solomon, the paragraph was based on a 2011 city ordinance creating a second, more taxpayer-friendly pension tier for city employees. He said the language is included in the police officers’ and municipal workers’ contracts but was inexplicably left out of the firefighter contracts.
Solomon said the blame lies with former Mayor Scott Avedisian, who stepped down last year to become CEO of the R.I. Public Transit Authority (RIPTA). He also accused Avedisian of hiding from his role in the controversy.
“The mayor being the sponsor of this, the mayor being the key negotiator of the contract with the unions, it’s time to step from behind the curtain,” Solomon said Tuesday.
Avedisian has not responded to Target 12’s request for comment.
Solomon would not say whether he believes the omission was on purpose.
“It could be suspicious. It could be coincidental. I’ll leave it to you to decide,” he said.
In its ruling against the city, the panel of arbitrators found that an ordinance cannot trump the collective bargaining process, according to an attorney for the union, International Association of Fire Fighters Local 2748.
Solomon said he intends to apply the ordinance to future firefighter contracts with one important change.
“There won’t be any missing paragraphs in my agreements as we go forward,” the mayor asserted.
The president of Local 2748 told Target 12 he’s very pleased with the arbitrators’ ruling.
The city has 90 days to appeal the ruling but Solomon said that decision is still being discussed.