DIXFIELD — During Monday evening’s Board of Selectmen meeting, Chairman Mac Gill read a prepared statement in response to the prohibitive practice complaint that Teamsters Union Local 340 of South Portland filed against the town earlier in the year.

Business agent Lorne Smith said Dec. 30 that the Teamsters had filed a prohibitive practice complaint against the town of Dixfield, claiming that they had showed discrimination and bad-faith bargaining during negotiations with the Public Works Department.

Smith added that the Teamsters were seeking a human rights suit against the town on behalf of Darlene Brann, the former administrative assistant of the Public Works Department and union steward with Teamsters Local 340.

Gill, reading from the prepared statement, said that the “Select Board will have no further comment on these issues,” as “under Maine law, contract negotiations with public unions are governed by statute that prohibits the parties from revealing bargaining positions that were offered or discussed in closed bargaining sessions from being publicly discussed until after the statutory mediation process has ended.”

Gill explained that the purpose of the rule is to “give the parties the opportunity to freely bargain their positions in private without being subject to outside pressures.”

“Prior to 2012, the town had a good working relationship with the prior Teamsters agents, which was based on hard-earned trust,” Gill continued. “However, in 2012, the prior Teamster Local 340 bargaining agents were ousted by Mr. Smith, and a new group of bargaining agents took over. Regrettably, the town’s good working relationship with the Teamsters immediately changed with the appearance of Mr. Smith in Dixfield.”

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Later in the statement, Gill pointed out that on Dec. 25, Smith published a letter to the editor in the Rumford Falls Times “in which he sets forth what he purports to be bargaining positions offered by the Teamsters during negotiations.”

“Under Maine law, Mr. Smith and the Teamsters are not permitted to reveal such privileged information until the mediation process has finished,” Gill continued. “The town will not comment on the accuracy of what Mr. Smith alleges in his letter, since doing so may itself violate the rules that govern bargaining conduct.”

Gill said that the town will “continue to bargain in good faith, respect the law and will not comment about ongoing bargaining,” and that they will be “authorizing the town attorney to explore filing an unfair labor practice complaint against the Teamsters for violating state law.”

In regards to the human rights suit, Gill said that “since the town no longer performs any utility functions, it made business sense to subcontract out the related administrative functions.

“This decision not only relieved the town from having to administer functions it no longer performed,” Gill said, “but also resulted in savings to the town by eliminating an unnecessary part-time position.”

In his letter to the editor on Dec. 25, Smith said that the town had “entered into negotiations with the Mexico Water District behind closed doors to subcontract Darlene’s duties to the Water District,” and that the Teamsters had protested that this action was “a contract violation.”

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However, in his prepared statement, Gill disagreed.

“What Mr. Smith fails to state in his letter is that the prior Public Works union contract that the Teamsters negotiated, which remains in effect until a new agreement is reached, specifically permits the town to take the actions it took in December,” Gill said, adding that the prior union contract “reserves to the town the right to subcontract the position it eliminated.”

Smith said the Maine Board of Labor will meet Jan. 10 to discuss the prohibitive practice complaint.

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