Change In Pay Practices Violates Contract

In 2006, the Town of Saugus, Massachusetts stopped issuing separate checks for certain “stipends” it paid under its collective bargaining agreement with the Saugus Firefighters Union. The Union challenged the Town’s decision in arbitration, citing a clause in the contract that required the Town to maintain past practices. An arbitrator sided with the Union, and upheld the grievance. The Arbitrator found that the Town presented a “compelling” argument that issuing separate paychecks for stipends caused it an administrative burden.

The “maintenance of benefits” clause in the contract clearly mandated the Town to continue job-related practices that did not conflict with the contract. The fact that the Town’s firefighters could not show that they were actually harmed by the change in practice was irrelevant to the Arbitrator’s decision; rather, the Arbitrator cited the fact that the past practice was longstanding, mutually known, and consistently applied.

Town of Saugus, Massachusetts and Saugus Firefighters Union, LAIG 6654 (Daly, 2008).

This article appears in the December 2008 issue