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Providence, RI FF's Sick

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  • Providence, RI FF's Sick

    PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Dozens of city firefighters didn't turn
    up for work, prompting Mayor David Cicilline to obtain a
    restraining order in Superior Court Wednesday requiring the
    firefighters to return to work.
    The order directs union leaders to advise members to comply with
    the department's collective bargaining agreement and state law,
    Cicilline said in a statement.
    Sixty-three firefighters called in sick Wednesday, costing the
    department $19,000 in overtime for replacements, Karen Southern, a
    Cicilline spokeswoman, told The Providence Journal. On Tuesday, 32
    firefighters called in sick Tuesday, costing the department $12,000
    in overtime.
    Providence Firefighters Union President David Peters said that
    the union leadership didn't encourage any firefighters to call in
    sick and that it discouraged any abuse of sick leave.
    "We have found no instance of any firefighter who abused his
    sick leave," he added, pointing out that many used personal days,
    which may be used at the discretion of the firefighters.
    Cicilline said he went to court because the "work stoppage and
    slowdown" was in violation of their contract and state law.
    Superior Court Judge O. Rogeriee Thompson granted the
    restraining order after finding the union engaged in an illegal job
    action, according to the mayor's office.
    It was unclear why so many didn't come to work. Firefighters
    have been without a contract since June 30, 2001, but they are
    still bound by the provisions of the old contract. State law
    prohibits fire department employees from striking and any other
    type of work stoppage or slowdown, the Journal reported.
    "I am outraged the firefighters decided to compromise the
    safety of their fellow firefighters and potentially the residents
    of this city by staging this irresponsible work stoppage,"
    Cicilline said. "The union leadership had available other
    mechanisms to voice their concerns. Instead they chose to
    jeopardize the welfare of the people of Providence and that is
    unacceptable."
    Cicilline said the city maintained minimum mandatory staffing
    levels of about 95 firefighters per shift by ordering firefighters
    already on the clock to work overtime.
    Fewer than 10 firefighters per shift typically call in sick,
    Southern said.
    But Peters said: "At no time were the citizens, visitors or the
    firefighters of the city of Providence in any danger."
    The firefighters have been negotiating for a new contract.
    Cicilline has been seeking concessions from their union on health
    care costs.
    Peters said that union and city had scheduled several contract
    negotiation sessions, including one on Thursday.

    (Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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