Employer's claim that a provision in the expired CBA was subject to a sunset provision in the absence of a successor agreement to go to arbitration

Employer's claim that a provision in the expired CBA was subject to a sunset provision in the absence of a successor agreement to go to arbitrationMatter of Schuyler County v Schuyler County Highway Unit, Local 849, Unit 8600, AFSCME, CSEA Local 1000, 2011 NY Slip Op 00479, Appellate Division, Third Department The parties entered into a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) for the years 2006-2009 that provided for a four-step grievance process, the third being advisory arbitration. The CBA's compensation provisions included a clause specifying that employees would receive wage step increases every year, with the steps defined in a wage schedule showing the effect that annual base wage increases from 2006-2009 would have on them. When a successor agreement negotiated in a timely fashion, Schuyler County declined to grant employees step increases in 2010. The County contended that the increases at issue "were not intended to continue beyond the term of the CBA" Local 849 filed a grievance which was denied by the County. When the Local demanded that the grievance be submitted to arbitration the County filed an Article 75 petition seeking a court order staying arbitration. Although Supreme Court granted the County's petition, the Appellate Division reversed the lower court's ruling. The Appellate Division explained that the issue was whether the step increase provision of the CBA continued upon that agreement's expiration and, in that regard, Civil Service Law §209-a (1)(e) provides that an expired CBA's provisions will continue until a new agreement is negotiated unless those provisions create "rights which by their very terms were intended to expire with the agreement."* The court said that there was neither law nor policy barring either party from submitting a question of contract interpretation regarding wages to arbitration, including the central issue in this action: "whether the CBA's language evinces an intent to an intent to 'sunset' the step increase provision." Turning to the County's argument that an arbitration award interpreting the CBA in such a way as to require post-expiration step increases would be violative of public policy, the Appellate Division said that "such a potential does not mandate a stay of arbitration." The court said that should the County's claim prove correct, the remedy is vacatur," citing Matter of County of Sullivan,** rather than a court order staying the arbitration. * Section 209-a(1)(e) is the codification the Triboro Doctrine earlier promulgated by PERB. ** Sullivan County Empls. Assn., 235 AD2d at 750]. The decision is posted on the Internet at: http://www.courts.state.ny.us/reporter/3dseries/2011/2011_00479.htm

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