Union officials in Rhode Island yesterday won a temporary stay in the state Supreme Court to prevent the first of 12 furlough days that was scheduled to begin today.

The unions appealed an earlier decision in Superior Court yesterday morning that would have allowed the shutdown to go forward while the parties went through arbitration. Gov. Donald Carcieri ordered the furloughs last month to save $21.6 million as part of a plan to cut $67.8 million in the current fiscal year. Carcieri has said he hoped to negotiate pay reductions that would eliminate the need for shutdown days.

Rhode Island Council 94 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees and other unions argued that Carcieri’s executive order violated collective bargaining agreements while the governor’s office asserted that the move was within its rights under the agreements.

The court is expected to hear further arguments before the next shutdown day, scheduled for Sept. 11.

The Rhode Island case follows a federal court ruling in Maryland that found Prince George’s County had violated the contract clause of the Constitution when it furloughed about 5,900 union employees. The union claimed the county had sought the shutdown days to avoid tapping into reserves to preserve its triple-A credit rating.

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