(CN) – A Rhode Island Supreme Court justice temporarily blocked the state’s planned furlough Friday, after unions representing about 13,000 state employees argued that the shutdown violated their contracts.
The ruling overturns a superior court justice’s decision Thursday to allow the 12-day mandatory shutdown of most state departments and agencies.
On Aug. 24, Gov. Donald Carcieri ordered the furlough, set to begin today, to help close the $68 million shortfall in the state’s budget.
In declining the unions’ bid to block the shutdowns, Superior Court Justice Michael Silverstein ordered both sides into arbitration, a process that could take months.
The state Supreme Court justice said Silverstein’s ruling “failed to address” the unions’ request for a temporary or permanent injunction, pending arbitration.
The justice gave the defendants until Sept. 8 to appeal the decision to the full Supreme Court, and said the plaintiffs must respond on or before Sept. 9.
The order also directed the parties to address whether the shutdown “constitutes a lockout, as that term is defined in the parties’ respective collective bargaining agreements.”