NIAGARA FALLS – A State Supreme Court justice has thrown out a lawsuit that attempted to compel Niagara County Community College to continue reimbursing faculty retirees for their Medicare Part B premiums.
The suit accused the college of trying to unilaterally alter the NCCC Faculty Association’s contract. The sides have been trying to negotiate a new one since 2006.
Justice Ralph A. Boniello III dismissed the case earlier this month. It was brought by retiree Anthony S. Gullo, former president of the Faculty Association, after he found out in January that the college was no longer paying $8.50 per month to him and 120 other retirees to reimburse them for this year’s federal increase in the Part B premium.
The college decided it wouldn’t pay anything beyond the 2012 premium of $96.40 per month, even through the government had increased the price to $104.90.
Boniello did not dismiss the suit on the merits. Instead, he ruled that the lawsuit wasn’t filed in time.
There is a four-month statute of limitations on bringing so-called Article 78 suits to try to overturn local government agencies’ decisions.
Gullo received the word of the payment refusal in a Jan. 14 email, but his lawsuit wasn’t filed until June 27.
Joseph F. Colosi, Gullo’s successor as president of the faculty union, said Friday that the union’s attorney is trying to work out a way to refile the suit so it can come before the court without having to worry about statute of limitations issues.
He said the college is trying to force retirees into Medicare Advantage plans, which NCCC President James P. Klyczek said would be about 60 percent cheaper than the BlueCross/BlueShield plans the union wants retirees to keep.
The 157-member Faculty Association last week rejected a state factfinder’s report that came down on the college’s side on the issues of wages and health insurance. The NCCC board of trustees had accepted the report last Monday.
The college offered the union a total wage increase of 17 percent, most of it retroactive, in exchange for requiring faculty members to pay 10 percent of their health insurance premiums.
“It was an extraordinarily fair offer on the college’s part,” Klyczek said.
He also noted that union members have been receiving annual increments, averaging 1.7 percent per year, since the last contract ran out in 2006.
Combining that with the wage increase offered by the college means faculty members would total a 30.6 percent increase.
Colosi said the faculty members pay nothing toward health insurance now.
“We understand the faculty has to pay something, but jumping from nothing to 10 percent from our perspective is a little much, especially since the wages (offered) are not exorbitant.”
He said the union rejected the factfinder’s report because it set aside other issues the union feels are important, including the promotion process, class sizes, early retirement incentives and layoff protection.