Two-Part Inquiry for Determining Whether a Dispute is Arbitrable Under a Collective Bargaining Agreement Clearly Explained and Applied
The Third Department determined the dispute between teachers and the board of education (concerning the board’s hiring of a teacher from an outside agency without posting the position as required by the collective bargaining agreement [CBA]) was arbitrable. The court first determined a provision of the Education Law, which allowed hiring from an outside agency, did not erect a policy/statutory barrier to hiring in accordance with the procedures in the CBA. The statute merely allowed the board to hire from an outside agency, but the statute did not preclude the board from using the hiring process agreed to in the CBA. The Third Department then went on to hold there was a reasonable relationship between the subject of the dispute and the general subject matter of the CBA. the only factors a court can look at to determine arbitrability. The responsibility for any further inquiry and analysis then passed to the arbitrator:
Petitioner contends that arbitration of the subject matter of the dispute is barred by Education Law § 3602-e and public policy. Determining whether the subject matter of a dispute is arbitrable involves a two-step inquiry, the first issue being “whether there is any statutory, constitutional or public policy prohibition against arbitration of the grievance” … . “[I]n order to overcome the strong [s]tate policy favoring the bargaining of terms and conditions of employment, any implied intention that there not be mandatory negotiation must be plain and clear or inescapably implicit in the statute” … .
Under the statutory scheme at issue, a “prekindergarten program plan” is defined as a plan “designed to effectively serve eligible children directly through the school district or through collaborative efforts between the school district and an eligible agency or agencies” (Education Law § 3602-e  [d] …). Petitioner’s argument rests upon Education Law § 3602-e (5) (d), which states that “[n]otwithstanding any other provision of law, [a] school district shall be authorized to enter any contractual or other arrangements necessary to implement the district’s prekindergarten plan.” Contrary to petitioner’s contention, this language does not suggest a legislative intent that school districts be given wholly unfettered freedom to disavow existing, bargained-for contractual agreements for the purpose of entering into contracts with outside agencies for prekindergarten instructional services. A more natural reading of Education Law § 3602-e supports a finding that the statute permits school districts to enter into such contracts, without in any way necessarily affecting the enforceability of a bargained-for agreement to secure such services through a CBA … . * * *
Having found that there is no public policy prohibition, we turn to the second part of the threshold inquiry — that is, whether the parties agreed to submit the subject matter of the dispute to arbitration … . In considering this issue, we must only ascertain if “there is a reasonable relationship between the subject matter of the dispute and the general subject matter of the CBA” … . Matter of Board of Educ. of the Catskill Cent. Sch. Dist. (Catskill Teachers Assn.), 2015 NY Slip Op 06190, 3rd Dept 7-16-15