Temporary Firefighter Issue Appropriate For Arbitrator’s Decision

Local 3188 of the International Association of Fire Fighters represents rank-and-file firefighters working for the Town of Lakeville, Massachusetts. Local 3188 referred to arbitration a grievance challenging the Town’s method of posting and filling a temporary firefighter position.

Before the Arbitrator, the Town took the position that the Fire Chief had authority to hire temporary help based on public safety needs. The Town argued that the ability to hire temporary help was a core managerial right not subject to collective bargaining or arbitration.

The Arbitrator rejected the Town’s claim, observing that “what must be followed by parties is the directive of the language which exists in the collective bargaining and not what is easiest.” The Town challenged the Arbitrator’s opinion in the Appeals Court of Massachusetts.

The Court rejected the Town’s argument, pointing to the nature of the arbitration process: “The Town’s claim, premised on an assertion of core managerial power, falters for the reason, if no other, that the Town agreed to arbitrate the precise issue whether there had been a violation of the work preference provision of the collective bargaining agreement. Thus, it was correct and proper for the Arbitrator to decide the stipulated issue put before him by the parties. If the Fire Chief and Town had in fact acted on the basis of public safety concerns, the Town was remiss in presenting such evidence to the Arbitrator.”

Town of Lakeville v. Local 3188, International Association of Fire Fighters, 884 N.E.2d 550 (Mass.App. 2008).

This article appears in the August 2008 issue