December 27, 2010

Past practice - paying for health insurance premiums

Past practice - paying for health insurance premiums
Matter of Ulster County Local 856, 33 PERB 4584

Local 856 filed an improper practice charge with PERB contending that the Town of Shawangunk violated Section 209-a.1(d) of the Civil Service Law when it unilaterally changed the long-standing practice of paying health insurance premiums for unit members after their retirement.

Notwithstanding the Local’s allegation, PERB Administrative Law Judge Gordon R. Mayo found that only two employees who would have been included within the existing negotiating unit had retired -- one in 1978 and the other in 1980 -- were provided with fully paid health insurance by the Town upon their retirement.

Both employees, however, retired prior Local 856 being recognized as the collective bargaining agent for the unit in 1984. Also noted was the fact that no unit member has retired since 1984. In contrast, when a Town employee who was not in the negotiating unit retired in 1992, the town board adopted a resolution allowing this retiree to purchase health insurance on the Town’s policy at his own expense.

Essentially the Local argued that a past practice existed while the Town disagreed. In support of its position it contended that in 1997 it suggested to a CSEA Labor Relations specialist that the topic should be discussed during the next round of collective bargaining by the parties.

Based on this record, Mayo ruled that “[b]ecause of the equivocal nature of the evidence contained within the stipulation of facts, I cannot find that a past practice ever existed within the Town regarding retiree health insurance.”

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