Contract Can Control Which Firefighter Is Held Over

The Fire Chief of the Town of Southbridge, Massachusetts issued a memorandum stating that “personnel are in holdover status until the duty shift officer relieves them of duty.” Local 2194 of the International Association of Fire Fighters challenged the memorandum in arbitration.

The Town’s primary argument was that the grievance was not subject to arbitration because the ability to hold over employees was a management right. An arbitrator saw things differently. The Arbitrator found that the grievance “did not challenge whether the non-emergency work should be performed or deal with the need to assign additional firefighters to the current shift on an overtime basis. Rather, the grievance concerned the identity of the firefighters who would perform the overtime work, once the overtime assignment decision had been made.”

The Arbitrator concluded that the purpose of the memorandum was to pay firefighters on an hour-for-hour basis for the holdover work rather than to call in other firefighters who would be subject to the three-hour overtime minimum. In the eyes of the Arbitrator, the new policy contravened the “practice long employed by the parties.”

The Arbitrator rejected Local 2194’s request for a monetary reward, finding that such an award would be “unduly speculative.”

Town of Southbridge, Massachusetts and Southbridge Permanent Firefighters, Local 2194, IAFF, LAIG 6646 (Brynie, 2008).

This article appears in the February 2009 issue