Arbitrator Rules Firefighter Layoffs Invalid
Henry A. Arnett
Livorno and Arnett Co., LPA
1335 Dublin Road, Suite 108-B
Columbus, Ohio 43215
An arbitrator has ruled that the City of Mansfield violated a collective bargaining agreement when it laid off 20 firefighters and reduced the daily staffing at its fire stations in July, 2009. The City and Local 266 of the International Association of Fire Fighters signed a contract on April 24, 2009, containing minimum staffing provisions. The provisions indicated that the City would maintain a total of at least 88 fire suppression personnel and have a minimum of 21 firefighters on duty each day staffing its fire apparatus. This provision was of extreme importance to the firefighters, as it established a minimally safe level of staffing and was designed to assure that response times were close to acceptable rates and that the safety risk and potential injuries to firefighters were minimized to the extent possible.
Less than three months after the parties executed that agreement, the City decided to lay off 20 firefighters, reducing the number of fire suppression personnel to 68, and also reducing the number of firefighters on duty each day to as few as 13.
Local 266 filed a grievance, alleging that the actions of the City violated the explicit terms of the collective bargaining agreement. This grievance was submitted to final and binding arbitration. On September 21, 2009, an arbitrator agreed with the Local, issuing an award finding that the City was in violation of the agreement. The award orders the City to recall laid off firefighters to bring the level of fire suppression personnel back to 88, to make those laid off firefighters whole by paying their lost wages and benefits, and also orders the City to maintain the daily staffing level of 21 and paying overtime to firefighters who should have been called in to work overtime to maintain that level of 21 in the months prior to the arbitration.