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Town of Athol v. Professional Firefighters of Athol, Local 1751, I.A.F.F. (Lawyers Weekly No. 10-174-14)

NOTICE:  All slip opinions and orders are subject to formal revision and are superseded by the advance sheets and bound volumes of the Official Reports.  If you find a typographical error or other formal error, please notify the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Judicial Court, John Adams Courthouse, 1 Pemberton Square, Suite 2500, Boston, MA 02108-1750; (617) 557-1030; SJCReporter@sjc.state.ma.us   NOTICE:  All slip opinions and orders are subject to formal revision and are superseded by the advance sheets and bound volumes of the Official Reports.  If you find a typographical error or other formal error, please notify the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Judicial Court, John Adams Courthouse, 1 Pemberton Square, Suite 2500, Boston, MA, 02108-1750; (617) 557-1030; SJCReporter@sjc.state.ma.us SJC-11640   TOWN OF ATHOL  vs.  PROFESSIONAL FIREFIGHTERS OF ATHOL, LOCAL 1751, I.A.F.F. October 23, 2014 Fire Fighter, Municipality’s liability.  Labor, Fire fighters, Health benefit plan, Arbitration, Collective bargaining.  Municipal Corporations, Fire department, Insurance, Collective bargaining.  Public Employment, Collective bargaining.  Contract, Collective bargaining contract.      This appeal arises from an action in the Superior Court challenging an arbitrator’s determination that the town of Athol (town) violated its collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the Professional Firefighters of Athol, Local 1751, I.A.F.F. (union) by unilaterally increasing copayment amounts that union members pay for medical services under their health insurance plans.  The judge confirmed the portion of the arbitration award compelling the parties to bargain collectively over changes to copayment rates, but vacated two remedial aspects of the award.  The Appeals Court affirmed.[1]  We granted the union’s application for further appellate review to address the question whether the Superior Court judge erred in vacating any portion of the award.  We reverse in part and remand for the entry of a judgment confirming the award in its entirety.   Background.  After the town unilaterally increased copayment amounts for medical services, the union filed a grievance under the parties’ CBA.  It alleged that health insurance benefits are mandatory subjects of collective bargaining, and that any changes must be brought to successor contract bargaining.  An arbitrator concluded that such changes are a mandatory subject of collective bargaining and that the town violated the CBA by making the changes unilaterally.  As a remedy, the arbitration award required the town, among other things, to restore the cost and structure of copayments to the status quo ante and to make union members whole for economic losses resulting from the change in copayment rates.  The town filed a complaint in the Superior Court seeking to vacate the award and for other relief.   Discussion.  Except in the narrow circumstances described in G. L. c. 150C, § 11, a judge may not vacate an arbitrator’s award.  Bureau of Special Investigations v. Coalition of Pub. Safety, 430 […]

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Posted by Massachusetts Legal Resources - October 23, 2014 at 5:38 pm

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