Past Practice Can Overcome Clear Contract Language

The collective bargaining agreement between the Baldwin Police Association and the Borough of Baldwin, Pennsylvania clearly provides that retirees are responsible for increases in post-retirement health insurance premiums. Notwithstanding the contract language, for 14 years the Borough paid the increased cost of premiums. When the Borough discontinued the practice, the Association challenged the Borough’s decision in arbitration.


n arbitrator upheld the Association’s grievance. The Arbitrator found that “In my opinion, the Borough has established the practice of paying for premium increases even though the clear language of the agreement states to the contrary. The consistency of making the payments coupled with the longevity of making payments, in light of the mutual acceptance by the parties, establishes the existence of a past practice. I’m not convinced the Borough determined it made a mistake in paying the premium increases.”

Borough of Baldwin, Pennsylvania and Baldwin Police Association, LAIG 6384 (Miller, 2005).

This article appears in the October 2006 issue