Thanks to Attorney Hykel, Arbitrator Rules that Plymouth Town Manager Cannot Refuse to Hear Grievances from Fire Local 1768

February 11, 2019

It is a basic principle of labor law that a Union does not waive its right to enforce clear contract language simply because it chose to ignore past violations. Here, Attorney James Hykel successfully argued that the collective bargaining agreement clearly required the Plymouth Town Manager personally to meet with the Local 1768 about grievances, and that she could not outsource this contractual duty to her underlings.

The contract states that at Step 2 of the grievance procedure, "The Town
Manager or, in the event of a temporary or permanent vacancy in the position of Town Manager, the Acting Town Manager, shall meet with the Union representative(s) and shall respond in writing to the Union ...." For a long time, Local 1768 had tolerated Step 2 hearings to be conducted by the Town Manager's subordinates. But Local 1768 was sick of being unable to deal directly with the Town Manager, as she ultimately made the decisions about whether to grant, deny or settle grievances. She refused Local 1768's demand that she adhere to the contract. The Union then filed a grievance.

The clear contract language shows that the Town Manager is excused from Step 2 hearings only during vacancies in the position. The Arbitrator found that the Town Manager's excuses for refusing to attend were not persuasive.

"As a practical matter, conducting one or two step 2 hearings per year involving Local 1768 grievances is not unduly burdensome. The Town Manager's participation is sought by the Union because Town Managers generally have more experience than do Assistant Town Managers, are better equipped to deal with Union disputes, and can promote continuity in the decision-making process."

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