Court Upholds Arbitrator’s Decision On Post-Retirement Health Insurance

The City of Buffalo and the Buffalo Professional Firefighters Association are parties to a contract that contains retiree and active employee health care provisions. On July 1, 2004, the City modified the health insurance plan provided to members and retirees.

The Association filed a grievance with respect to the modified plan, alleging that the modified plan violated the contract. In 2008, an arbitrator issued an award finding that the City’s actions violated the contract and awarded relief to both active members and retired former members of the Association. The City then filed a petition seeking in court to vacate the award to the extent that it granted relief to the retirees.

The City’s argument was that the Arbitrator exceeded his authority by granting relief to retirees. The Court disagreed, finding that “the issue whether the Association had standing to represent retired employees was for the Arbitrator to determine, and the record is devoid of any evidence that the elimination of health insurance options did not affect the retirees such that respondent would lack standing to represent them. Thus, the City failed to demonstrate that the Arbitrator exceeded his authority.

“The City further contends that the arbitration award was ‘indefinite’ because the Arbitrator granted its request to delay implementation of the award until a related police union case completed the appeal process and thus was finalized. We reject that contention. An award is subject to be overturned as indefinite or nonfinal only if it leaves the parties unable to determine their rights or obligations, if it does not resolve the controversy submitted, or if it creates a new controversy. That is not the case here.”

In re City of Buffalo (Buffalo Professional Firefighters Ass’n, IAFF Local 282), 946 N.Y.S.2d 367 (Sup. 2012).