Town Must Bargain For Fire Station Clinic
By: Alex Scofield
The state’s Labor Relations Commission said this week that a free and reduced price veterinary clinic hosted at the Bourne Fire & Rescue Department’s Sagamore Beach station seems to present a “significant change in working conditions” for members of the local firefighters union.
President of Local 1717 Gilbert S. Taylor said, as a result, the town must now either close the clinic, agree to go back to the bargaining table to discuss how the vet clinic will operate, or go before the labor relations board to argue its case.
Firefighters have complained about the weekly pet clinic since it first began operating at the fire station five months ago.
Mr. Taylor said with animals coming into the fire station, firefighters are exposed to allergens that they could potentially bring into homes across town.
He added that there was a risk of the medical supplies containing latex used in the clinic could become mixed into the supplies used by firefighters and paramedics.
That is a problem, he said, because the Bourne Fire & Rescue Department does not use any products containing latex because it causes serious allergic reactions in some people.
At the time of the initial union complaints, Fire Department Chief Daniel J. Doucette, who is not a member of the union, said he believed he had done enough to involve firefighters in the planning for the clinic.
Chief Doucette said that two union firefighters were at that station when a tour was conducted by the veterinarian and a Department of Natural Resources officer back in June.
He added that animal clinics have been held at other stations and that, in his opinion, the weekly vet clinic at the Sagamore station did not constitute a significant change in its use.
“It’s something that our stations have been used for before,” he said.
He added that the people operating the clinic are aware that if they cause a nuisance to firefighters or the public, “they are out of there.”
However, union members said that the actions taken by the town and the interim fire chief to prepare them for the coming clinic were not enough.
Local 1717 sent a letter to the town in October demanding that they return to the bargaining table to discuss the clinic.
The finding by the Massachusetts Labor Relations Commission’s inquiry means that the town must either comply with that demand to bargain, prove that the vet clinic has not significantly altered working conditions within the fire station, or agree to pull the clinic out of the fire station.
The union will also have a chance to plead their case before the labor relations commission.
“The board will listen to both sides,” Mr. Taylor said. “It’s up to us to prove that this clinic has caused a serious change in working conditions and that it was a bargainable event.”
Town Administrator Thomas M. Guerino said he has referred the issued to Town Counsel Robert S. Troy.
“We’re going to look at the letter we received from the labor relations board and determine what the best course of action is for the town.”
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