Digging Deeper: North Kingstown firefighter dispute

Twenty-four hours on, 48 off.

That's the new shift for firefighters in North Kingstown, even as they're in court to try to roll it back to the old schedule.

NBC 10 did some digging to find out why the rank-and-file is upset with a schedule seemingly used elsewhere.

"This 24-hour shift has just been absolutely brutal," said North Kingstown Fire Fighters Association President Raymond Furtado. "It's operating in a very unsafe manor. We don't have the support staff."

NBC 10 caught up with the firefighters' union president outside Kent County Court as the legal fight over his and other firefighters' schedules continued inside Monday.

With a little digging NBC 10 learned the 24-hour shift isn't new.

A few departments in Rhode Island already use it, and it's widely used across New England.

But the difference in North Kingstown is in the details.

North Kingstown firefighters now work 24 hours on and 48 hours off, 24 hours on and so on - averaging about three days of work in a seven-day week.

Compare that to the more common 24-hour shift, where firefighters work 24 hours on, 24 hours off, another 24 hours on and then four days off . They only work about two days in a full week.

North Kingstown firefighters did get a double-digit pay increase with the change to 24-hour shifts, but their work week increased by an extra 14 hours. The weeks seem even longer when you factor in frequent overtime.

"Now, you're working a stretch of 48, 72. We've had workers work over 100 hours straight. They're mandated to," Furtado said.

The Rhode Island State Association of Firefighters, local departments and the state labor board are also against the town's 24-hour shift schedule.

The Town Council is standing by its decision. In previous interviews with NBC 10, Council President Elizabeth Dolan explained.

"It's been safe," Dolan said. "It's done all over the country and we're saving the taxpayers a lot of money, $1.2 million."

Firefighters say it's at their expense.