Attorneys Barrault and Bryant Defeat (Again) Frivolous Charge from Town of Seekonk Against Its Fire fighters

September 20, 2018

A hearing officer of the Massachusetts Department of Labor Relations has dismissed a complaint filed by the Town of Seekonk against IAFF Local 1931after Local 1931 asked a mediator to help with contract negotiations. Attorneys Leah Barrault and Patrick Bryant successfully represented Local 1931 during contract negotiations, mediation, interest arbitration, and this frivolous unfair labor practice. More than two years after negotiations began, Seekonk fire fighters refused to buckle to pressure. They now have a 24-hour shift schedule, while the Town likely has spent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars in pursuit of baseless opposition to Local 1931.

When contract negotiations started in March 2016, Local 1931 sought the schedule used by a majority of fire departments: a 24-hour shifts in an average workweek of 42 hours. The Town obnoxiously opposed this proposals for months. Finally, after negotiations had dragged on extensively, the Town proposed, off-the-record, a 24-hour schedule off-the-record -- but only if the Union agreed to increase the average work week to 56 hours.

Anyone familiar with Massachusetts fire service knows that a 56-hour work week proposal is meant to offend and provoke. Only one Massachusetts department currently uses it; the Providence, Rhode Island department dropped this work week after considerable discontent and litigation.

Attorney Barrault knew that a 56-work week proposal was not offered in good faith. She told the Town that there was no condition on the planet that the Town could articulate to persuade Seekonk fire fighters to accept a 33 percent increase in their work week. Nonetheless, despite the Town's clear bad faith, Barrault offered another package counter proposal, with more concessions for the Town.

The Town replied by asking for time to meet with the Board of Selectmen to determine whether it could have authority to vary from the 56-hour work week proposal. When the Town asked to schedule more dates, Barrault advised the Town to contact her if it had flexibility.

Barrault then filed a petition for JLMC mediation. The Town never contacted her to ask for more negotiations. The Town responded by filing an unfair labor practice charge against Local 1931. The DLR initially dismissed the charge and then, at the Town's request, reinstated it one year later.

By the time the ULP hearing was scheduled, negotiations concluded. An independent JLMC panel ordered the Town to provide 24-hour shifts for fire fighters and strongly rejected the Town's proposal for a 56-hour work week. Nonetheless, the Town insisted on pursuing this charge.

The Hearing Officer has determined that the Attorney Barrault and Local 1913 did not violate their duty to bargain in good faith.

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