November 20, 2018

Side Letter Agreements to a collective bargaining agreement


Side Letter Agreements to a collective bargaining agreement
NYC Transit Authority v PERB, 232 A.D.2d 492 

§209-a(1)(e) if the Civil Service Law provides that it is an improper employer practice to refuse to continue all the terms of an expired agreement until a new agreement unless the union has violated §210 of the Civil Service Law during or prior to the resolution of such negotiations.

Does the same rule apply with respect to instruments usually described as side letter agreements to a Taylor Law contract? This was the critical issue in New York City Transit Authority v PERB.

The Authority and the Transit Supervisors Organization [TSO] had entered into a "side letter agreement" that provided that TSO would not seek certification as the collective bargaining representative for certain enumerated Transit Authority employees.

Following the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement, TSO filed a petition with PERB asking to be certified as the collective bargaining representative for those enumerated Authority employees. The Authority objected, contending that the side letter agreement precluded TSO from filing such a petition.

PERB rejected the Authority's argument, ruling that the side letter agreement is effective only for the duration of the past collective bargaining agreement to which the side letter agreement corresponds.

The Authority appealed, only to have the Appellate Division affirm PERB's ruling. What was the Court's rationale for upholding PERB?

The Appellate Division said that TSO was not barred by §209-a(1)(e) because that provision only applies to a public employer or its agents and TSO was neither a public employer nor the agent of a public employer.

What is the significance of this ruling? It may be a signal that PERB and the courts will conclude that while an employee organization is not bound by the terms of a side letter agreement once the underlying agreement expires and no successor agreement is in place, §209-a(1)(e) mandates that an employer continue the terms set out in all side letter agreement adopted by the parties until a new agreement is negotiated.

Considering the language of §209-a(1)(e), it may not be possible for an employer to limit the life of a side letter agreement by incorporating by reference the terminal date of underlying collective bargaining agreement.


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