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FLRA Holds Fire Fighter Safety Trumps "Management Rights"

            Over the holidays, the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) upheld a favorable arbitration award on staffing, won by the IAFF under the Guardian Policy.  The arbitration involved the Air Force Material Command (“AFMC”), which encompasses several Air Force installations around the country.  In 2008, the arbitrator ruled that the AFMC was in violation of provisions in labor agreements and applicable Department of Defense regulations when it reduced staffing on its Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighting (“ARFF”) vehicles (i.e., crash trucks). 

 

            The remedy issued by the Arbitrator required the Agency to:  1) immediately restore minimum staffing of ARFF vehicles to three (driver/pump operator, and two fire fighters); or 2) undertake a risk analysis concerning staffing, propose a time table when staffing will be restored to meet the criteria of DODI §6055.06, request an appropriate waiver, and notify the union of the waiver’s status.  Always lurking behind this successful ruling was the question of whether “management rights” trumped the arbitrator’s award.  The FLRA’s ruling has answered that question: ruling that the question is whether a safety-related arbitration award “abrogates” management rights, it concluded that the arbitrator’s award does not do so, and upheld the award.

 

            The combined decisions of the FLRA and the Arbitrator, finding that the Agency’s reduction in staffing violated department of Defense Instruction (“DODI”) §6055.06, are also significant because that regulation establishes requirements regarding fire/rescue emergency services throughout Department of Defense components—Air Force, Navy, Army, Marine Corps, and the Defense Logistics Agency. 

 

            You can find a copy of the arbitration award, and the FLRA decision, on the IAFF’s Legal Department web page (login required).

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