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June 12, 2012

Arbitration award granting relief to both active employees and retired employees confirmed

Arbitration award granting relief to both active employees and retired employees confirmed
Matter of City of Buffalo (Buffalo Professional Firefighters Assn., IAFF Local 282), 2012 NY Slip Op 04527, Appellate Division, Fourth Department

The City of Buffalo modified the health insurance plan provided to members of in several negotiating units. The several unions representing City employees in those units filed a grievance with respect to the modified plan, alleging that the modified plan violated their respective collective bargaining agreements (CBA).

An arbitrator issued an award finding that the City's actions violated the relevant CBAs and awarded relief to both active members and retired former members in the collective bargaining units that brought the grievances. 

Buffalo filed an Article 75 petition seeking to vacate the award to the extent that it granted relief to the retirees.

The Appellate Division ruled that the arbitrator did not exceed his authority in fashioning an award that granted relief to the retired unit employees, explaining that the issue whether the unions had standing to represent retired employees formerly in their respective collective bargaining units was for the arbitrator to determine. 

Significantly, the court noted that the record was devoid of any evidence that the elimination of health insurance options did not affect the retirees such that the relevant unions would lack standing to represent them. Accordingly, the court held that Buffalo “failed to demonstrate that the arbitrator exceeded his authority.”

As to Buffalo’s argument that the arbitration award should be vacated because it was "indefinite" as the arbitrator had granted its request to delay implementation of the award until a related police union case completed the appeal process and thus was finalized, the Appellate Division said that it rejected the City’s theory, holding that "An award is subject to vacatur as indefinite or nonfinal only if it leaves the parties unable to determine their rights or obligations, if it does not resolve the controversy submitted, or if it creates a new controversy."

The Appellate Division then confirmed the arbitration award.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

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