Arbitrator Requires City to Reinstate Fire and Police Pension Reversion Benefits

The City of Portland Fire and Police Retirement Fund had a rule which provided that when an alternate payee (such as an ex-spouse) died before the retiree, the alternate payee’s payments would revert to the retiree. The Board of the pension fund eliminated the reversion benefit, and the Portland Police Commanding Officers Association filed a grievance over the change, asserting that it violated the maintenance-of-benefits clause in the union contract. The City refused to arbitrate. Hank Kaplan filed an unfair labor practice charge to compel the City to arbitrate and then represented the union in the subsequent arbitration. The arbitrator ruled in favor of the union, and ordered the City to reinstate the benefit. The arbitrator held that pension benefits are a mandatory subject of bargaining and that the contract obligated the City to maintain the pension benefits in the contract, regardless of whether the pension fund paid for those benefits.