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NCCC union files suit over health plan ruling

The faculty union at Niagara County Community College brought suit Friday to try to overturn a state arbitrator's denial of damages over a change in the union's health care plan.

The arbitrator ruled that the college administration violated the union contract by changing the health plan without negotiating it with the union, but the ruling also refused the union's demand that all the money NCCC saved by doing so should be paid to the union.

The NCCC Faculty Association is working under terms of a contract that was signed in 2002 and expired in 2006.

Its lawsuit demands that the college should be forced to revert to the health insurance format it offered until 2009: a choice of several health maintenance organizations.

In an effort to save money, in 2009 the college switched the faculty members into a Blue Cross/Blue Shield point-of-service plan.

In April 2011, arbitrator Michael S. Lewandowski of the state Public Employment Relations Board ruled that the faculty's contract was violated by NCCC's unilateral decision.

But he called the violation "technical," and said the move didn't seem to have done the professors much harm.

"The mere fact the college saved money by switching health insurance plans is not a violation of the agreement," Lewandowski wrote.

He said there was no contract provision entitling the union to the college's savings, and said NCCC had only to reimburse members who sustained increased out-of-pocket expenses as a result of the switch.

"For the entire union membership, it was less than $1,000," NCCC President James P. Klyczek said Friday.

As for the savings, Klyczek said, that was "not as much as we anticipated."