Arbitrator Allows 13-Year-Old Claim On Retiree Health Care To Be Arbitrated

Police officers working for the City of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania are represented by the Wilkes-Barre Police Benevolent Association. When the parties were unable to reach an agreement on the terms of the contract between January 1, 1994 to December 31, 1994, an arbitrator issued a decision covering a variety of working conditions.

Thirteen years later, the Association learned that the City was not paying the Medicare B premium for retirees who had reached Medicare eligibility. The Association challenged through the arbitration process the City’s failure to pay the premium.

An arbitrator found that the grievance was arbitrable. In particular, the Arbitrator pointed out that the collective bargaining agreement did not have specific time frames for the filing of grievances. The Arbitrator also concluded that even though 18 retirees had paid Medicare B premiums over the 13 years since the arbitration award, the Association itself was unaware until 2006 that the City was not paying the premium.

Turning to the merits of the issue, the Arbitrator concluded that the intent of the arbitration award was clearly to require the City to provide the same level of health care to retirees as it did to active employees, and to do so “free of charge, for life.” Because of the lengthy time frames involved, the Arbitrator only required the City to reimburse retirees for Medicare Part B premiums for the 60-day period prior to the filing of the grievance.

City of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, LAIG 6600 (Skonier, 2007).

This article appears in the August 2008 issue