No Right To Refuse To Arbitrate Retiree Healthcare Grievance

The contract between the City of Niagara Falls, New York and the Niagara Falls Police Club contains a clause dealing with retirement benefits. When the Club filed a grievance challenging decisions made by the City concerning retiree healthcare benefits, the City refused to arbitrate the grievance, claiming that the Club had no right to represent retirees.

The Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court upheld an order forcing the City to arbitrate the grievance. The Court concluded that “the parties’ dispute over healthcare benefits for retired officers is properly the subject of arbitration based on the terms of the parties’ contract. Pursuant to the contract, there is a grievance procedure for any dispute that arises concerning the interpretation or application of the terms of the contract or the rights claimed to exist hereunder, and the contract further provides that, in the event there is not a satisfactory resolution of a grievance, either party may seek resolution by arbitration. The contract expressly refers to retirement benefits in defining the term grievance, and the grievance procedure set forth in the contract is not predicated upon the status of the affected beneficiaries (as active employee or retiree). We thus conclude that the Club is entitled to pursue arbitration on behalf of the retirees.”

In re City of Niagara Falls, 860 N.Y.S.2d 372 (N.Y.A.D. 2008).

This article appears in the March 2009 issue