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Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Alleged violation of a job security clause in a collective bargaining agreement not always subject to arbitration


Alleged violation of a job security clause in a collective bargaining agreement not always subject to arbitration
Village of Monticello v Monticello Police Benevolent Association, Supreme Court, Sullivan County, Index #2974-12

Contending that the Village of Monticello had breached the relevant collective bargaining agreement which provided that the Monticello Police Department shall not consist of less than a Chief of Police and twenty-three sworn officers, the Monticello Police Benevolent Association [PBA] demanded that its grievance be submitted to arbitration.

The Village filed a petition pursuant to Article 75 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules in an effort to stay the arbitration, contending that the staffing provision as set out in the agreement, which it characterized as a “job security clause,” violated public policy and thus was not subject to arbitration.

Supreme Court Justice Christopher E. Cahill said the sole issue to be resolved was whether the so-called “job security clause” in the collective bargaining agreement satisfies the stringent test the Court of Appeals referred to in deciding Johnson City Professional Firefighters Local 921, 18 NY3d 32, i.e., did the employer explicitly agree to bargain away its rights to eliminate positions and terminate or layoff employees for budgetary or other reasons.

In Board of Educ. of Yonkers City Sch. Dist. v Yonkers Federation of Teachers, 40 NY2d 268, the Court of Appeals noted that “Not all job security clauses are valid and enforceable, nor are they ‘valid and enforceable under all circumstances.’" In Yonkers Federation of Teachers the court found that a "job security" wasexplicit in its protection of the [workers] from abolition of their positions due to budgetary stringencies" and thus enforceable.

In contrast, in CSEA v City of Yonkers [Crossing Guard Union], 39 NY2d 964, the Court of Appeals concluded that the "job security" clause in the collective bargaining agreement relied upon by the Crossing Guard Union was ambiguous and thus not enforceable.

Similarly, the clause relied upon by the Monticello PBA, said Justice Cahill, did not explicitly protect the police officers from the abolition of their positions due to economic and budgetary stringencies. Concluding that provision was ambiguous, the court ruled that it did not constitute an “explicit” provision barring such layoffs.

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Brian D. Nugent, Esq., Feerick Lynch MacCartney PLLC, represented the Village of Monticello in this proceeding and sent a copy of Justice Cahill’s February 21, 2013 decision to NYPPL.

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