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Monday, December 30, 2013

Although an employee organization and the employer are able to retroactively bind each other to the terms of a collective bargaining agreement, they unable to bind third parties to the agreement under color of the Taylor Law


Although an employee organization and the employer are able to retroactively bind each other to the terms of a collective bargaining agreement, they unable to bind third parties to the agreement under color of the Taylor Law
Buffalo Niagara Airport Firefighters Assn. v DiNapoli, 2013 NY Slip Op 07227, Appellate Division, Third Department

In 2009, in response to an "unprecedented" fiscal crisis,* the State Legislature revamped the State's Employee’s Retirement System and created a new Tier 5 requiring all newly hired firefighters, among others, to contribute a portion of their salary to the retirement system.

The legislation was made effective January 9, 2010 but it provided for an exception whereby eligible employees could join a noncontributory special retirement plan available to them pursuant to a collectively bargained agreement that was "in effect on the effective date of this act", i.e., on January 9, 2010.

The Buffalo Niagara Airport Firefighters Association [Association] and the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority [NFTA] had entered into a collective bargaining agreement [CBA] that covered the period April 1, 2008 through March 31, 2009  [the 2008 Agreement] and subsequently executed a successor CBA in August 2010 that retroactively covered the period from April 1, 2009 through March 31, 2013 [the 2009 Agreement]. 

Both the 2008 Agreement and the 2009 Agreement permitted NFTA firefighters to participate in a noncontributory special retirement plan.

The Comptroller, however, determined that certain NFTA's newly hired firefighters were not eligible for the statutory exception and thus were unable to enroll in the noncontributory plan because no CBA was in effect on January 9, 2010. 

The Association challenged the Comptroller’s determination, contending that the “newly hired firefighters” were entitled to participate in the noncontributory plan provided for in the CBAs because either [1] the expired 2008-2009 CBA continued to be "in effect" on January 9, 2010 pursuant to the Triborough Amendment** or, in the alternative, [2] the 2009-2013 CBA was retroactively "in effect" on that date.

Supreme Court sustained the Comptroller's determination and the Association appealed.

The Appellate Division affirmed the lower court’s ruling, explaining that the Association’s “reliance on the continued effect of the terms of the 2008-2009 CBA is unavailing in light of the recent decisions of the Court of Appeals expressly rejecting the application of the Triborough Amendment to the Tier 5 retirement legislation.”***

Thus, said the court, “the expired 2008-2009 CBA cannot be considered to have been ‘in effect’ on January 9, 2010 for the purpose of permitting the new hires to qualify for the statutory exception.”

Further, the Appellate Division ruled that 2009 Agreement could not be retroactively "in effect" on January 9, 2010, as it was not executed until seven months later in August 2010. 

The court concluded that in August 2010 newly hired firefighters were required by law to contribute to the retirement system and, as a result, “the Union and NFTA were prohibited from agreeing to a noncontributory retirement plan”, citing Civil Service Law §201[4]**** and Retirement and Social Security Law §470.

The Appellate Division explained that although “the Union and NFTA were able to retroactively bind each other to the terms of the 2009-2013 CBA, they were unable to bind third parties such as the Comptroller.” [See, also, Matter of Council of School Supervisors & Adm'rs, Local 1 v New York City Dept. of Educ., 87 AD3d 883, an entity not a party to a collective bargaining agreement negotiated pursuant to the Taylor Law may not be bound by its terms.]

* See Governor’s Program Bill Mem, Bill Jacket, Chapter 504 of the Laws of, 2009

** Civil Service Law § 209-a [1] [e]

*** Matter of City of Oswego, 21 NY3d 880; Matter of City of Yonkers v Yonkers Fire Fighters, Local 628, 20 NY3d 651

**** Civil Service Law §201[4] provides that “The term "terms and conditions of employment" means salaries, wages, hours and other terms and conditions of employment provided,  however, that such term shall not include any benefits provided by or to be provided by a public retirement system, or payments to a fund or insurer to provide an income for retirees, or payment to retirees or their beneficiaries. No such retirement benefits shall be negotiated  pursuant to this article, and any benefits so negotiated shall be void." while §470 of the Retirement and Social Security Law, captioned “Temporary suspension of retirement negotiations,” provides that “Changes negotiated between any public employer and public employee, as such terms are defined in section two hundred one of the civil service law, with respect to any benefit provided by or to be provided by a public retirement system, or payments to a fund or insurer to provide an income for retirees or payment to retirees or their beneficiaries, shall be prohibited."

The decision is posted on the Internet at: http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2013/2013_07227.htm
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Handbooks focusing on State and Municipal Public Personnel Law continue to be available for purchase via the links provided below:

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A Reasonable Penalty Under The Circumstances at http://nypplarchives.blogspot.com

The Disability Benefits E-book: at http://section207.blogspot.com/

Layoff, Preferred Lists at http://nylayoff.blogspot.com/

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