Fire Department’s Probationary Employees Entitled To Most Of Contract’s Benefits

The collective bargaining agreement between Local 2955 of the International Association of Fire Fighters and the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority calls for incentive pay for firefighters who pass a physical agility test. When a probationary firefighter volunteered to take the test, the Authority turned down his request, taking the position that probationary employees were not entitled to the incentive pay in the contract. Subsequently, the Authority declined to pay the probationary firefighter the semi-annual clothing allowance called for by the contract.

Local 2955 challenged both of the Authority’s decisions through the arbitration process. The Authority responded with the contention that the grievance was not arbitrable since it concerned a probationary employee.

An arbitrator upheld Local 2955’s grievance. The Arbitrator reasoned that the contract’s grievance procedure made no distinction between permanent and probationary employees, and that most of the substantive clauses in the collective bargaining agreement were fully applicable to probationers. In the Arbitrator’s judgment, unless the contract specifically excluded a particular benefit from the contract, the contract should be construed as applying to probationary employees. The notable exception cited by the Arbitrator was that probationary employees would not have the ability to challenge their termination through the grievance procedure.

Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority and Reno Airport Firefighters Association, LAIG 6447 (Staudohar, 2006).

This article appears in the June 2007 issue