Vermont Labor Board Issues Complaint Against Bellows Falls for Replacing Firefighters with Full-Time Chief
The Village of Bellows Falls has violated multiple sections of the Vermont Municipal Employee Relations Act for laying off all full-time fire fighters and replacing them with a full-time chief and on call firefighters, or so alleges a new complained issued by the Vermont Labor Relations Board. Patrick Bryant has represented Local 4473, IAFF, and Professional Fire Fighters of Vermontin this proceeding.
Bryant and the Unions alleged that the Village retaliated against the Union for not accepting Village proposals for a new contract. The Union alleged that negotiations, at the end, were handled by an avowed anti-union Trustee. As negotiations dragged on, a petition mysteriously circulated seeking the Village to revisit its approval for a budget that included a full-time fire department (the Village has had a paid fire department since the 1920s). Once the petition circulated, the Village stopped negotiating with the Union.
Residents, with what the Union believed to be the support of anti-union Trustees, voted to cut the Village budget by $200,000. Then, the Trustees laidoff all four full-time firefighters and decided to hire a Fire Chief and rely upon on-call firefighters to protect Village residents and property. The Village did not layoff any other municipal employee, except for firefighters. The Village refused to appoint the full-time fire fighters who applied for the job as Chief. The Village, the Union alleged, failed to bargain with the union before making the decision to layoff paid firefighters and transfer all fire services outside of the bargaining unit.
A hearing on the unfair labor practice is scheduled for January. The Union is seeking the VLRB to order the Village to make the firefighters whole, restore them to their positions and fulfill its bargaining obligations before transferring their work.