BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) -- New York State Supreme Court Judge John Michalek has directed the City of Buffalo to recoup a 5.5% pay increase the city provided to city firefighters following his ruling yesterday in a longstanding dispute between the Buffalo Professional Firefighters Association, IAFF Local 282 and the city.
With the Judge’s ruling, which was prompted by the fire union taking the city to court, the City Comptroller will be asked to calculate amounts now deemed improperly paid to members of Local 282 and to put in place procedures to recoup those overpayments. This action follows the fire union’s membership rejection of two contract offers that would have increased their salaries by 29% in a January 2007 contract offer and 20% in a November 2008 contract offer.
An arbitration panel issued an award to the fire union membership on July 18, 2005 for the period of July 1, 2002 to June 30, 2004, which included the 5.5% pay increase.
Justice Michalek and the 4th Department vacated a portion of the arbitration award that provided for the firefighters to receive their health insurance through a single carrier; however, both of those Courts allowed the wage increases and other contractual changes to remain in effect. Following the lifting of the wage freeze, on July 1, 2007, the city implemented the 5.5% wage increase requested by Local 282 and awarded by the panel.
On October 15, 2009, the NYS Court of Appeals issued a decision that vacated the arbitration award “in its entirety,” including the wage increases and other contractual changes.
Until recently, several provisions of the vacated award remained in place on the assumption that either the parties would negotiate a resolution or the arbitration panel would issue a new award; however, Local 282 sued the City of Buffalo and asked Judge Michalek to hold the city in contempt.
In light of Judge Michalek’s directive yesterday upon the motion of Local 282, the city will direct that every portion of the vacated award be discontinued as soon as possible, including the 5.5% wage increases implemented effective July 1, 2007. In addition, Judge Michalek, in his ruling, did not hold the city in contempt.