BURRILLVILLE – It’s been more than a month since a fire station, active in the village of Nasonville for some 78 years, went quiet after an unresolved labor dispute led to the elimination of paid staff and the resignation of some 27 volunteers.
But the legal battle on behalf of the Nasonville Firefighters Union continues, and there’s still a chance the matter could be resolved through interest arbitration, at least according to Joseph Andriole, president and business agent for the Rhode Island State Association of Fire Fighters.
The department – one of four independent fire districts in the town of Burrillville – was staffed by 13 paid firefighters before residents terminated the jobs in a budget vote in late September. Days later, the district’s elected five-member operating committee terminated three-year Chief Joseph Bourquin.
On Oct. 9, all of the district’s volunteer firefighters resigned, citing lack of leadership.
Firefighters from the neighboring district of Oakland/Mapleville have been handling the village’s calls for service since, with mutual aid from the remaining districts of Pascoag and Harrisville.
The committee, meanwhile, has vowed to rebuild with a recruitment drive, and has appointed two liaisons for Nasonville, Oakland/Mapleville Fire District Capt. Troy Phillips and Ron Lapierre, a former deputy chief in Nasonville and current tax collector.
But Andriole notes that things are far from over for the former union employees.
The collective bargaining group filed for interest arbitration in the matter, a process governed by a state law known as the Firefighter’s Arbitration Act. Hearings began in mid-October, with Andriole representing firefighters, and attorney Timothy Cavazza acting on behalf of the committee. Mark Grossman of Boston was appointed the neutral arbitrator in the case.
The group has already held several hearings, with the next to be held in early December, according to the union representative.
Andriole noted that members of the department also filed an unfair labor charge with the state labor relations board. He said he anticipates that hearing will be scheduled in December or early January.
IAFF Representative Robert Neill has also filed an Open Meetings Act complaint against the committee.
“In the meantime we’re waiting to see if there is a possible settlement,” said Andriole.
The Nasonville operating committee has continued to meet at the Victory Highway station, discussing the litigation in executive session in October, and receiving an update from the liaisons during a meeting last week.
Andriole said he’s hopeful a settlement can be reached.
“We’re still moving forward with all of the original litigation,” he said.