James R. DiFrancesco, Johnstown, for appellant.
Richard J. Green, Jr., Johnstown, for appellee.
Jones, C. J., and Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Pomeroy, J., filed a dissenting opinion.
This appeal arises from an order of the Commonwealth Court which reversed the Court of Common Pleas of Cambria County and held that a writ of mandamus should not issue to compel arbitration between appellant and appellee. We granted appellant's petition for allowance of appeal.
The facts surrounding this appeal are as follows. On January 28, 1974, the International Association of Firefighters, Local 463 (appellant) notified the City of Johnstown (appellee) that it desired to negotiate a new union contract for the fiscal year beginning January 1, 1975. The parties did nothing further to effectuate a new agreement until September 9, 1974, when appellant, through its attorney, requested that a collective bargaining session be arranged and that the binding arbitration under the Act of June 24, 1968, P.L. 237, No. 111, § 1, 43 P.S. § 217.1, begin by September 13, 1974. Thereafter, an initial negotiating session was held on September 21, 1974; three more sessions were held, and finally on October 22, 1974, an impasse was reached and on the same day the union requested binding arbitration under § 4(a) of Act 111, 43 P.S. § 217.4(a). Appellee refused the request for arbitration and appellant sought a writ of mandamus
to compel arbitration. The Court of Common Pleas granted appellant's request; however, Commonwealth Court subsequently reversed the decision.
The sole issue raised in this appeal is whether § 3 of Act 111, 43 P.S. § 217.3, which provides:
"Collective bargaining shall begin at least six months before the start of the fiscal year of the political subdivision or of the Commonwealth, as the case may be, and any request for arbitration, as hereinafter provided, shall be made at least one hundred ten days before the start of said fiscal year."
requires that binding arbitration between a union and a political subdivision of the Commonwealth begin at least one hundred ten days before the start of the fiscal year.
We are of the opinion that while the time scheme of the above statute is mandatory, there exists a valid reason that it will not preclude arbitration in the facts of this appeal. Appellant first notified appellee that it sought to negotiate a new labor contract on June 28, 1974, some four months before the deadline for binding arbitration, which was September 13, 1974. Appellee took no action to arrange a collective bargaining session. Appellant again on September 9, 1974, notified appellee of its request to negotiate a new union contract and at that time also stated that it intended to go to binding arbitration if an agreement was not reached. This second request for collective bargaining also pointed out that if the parties were to submit to binding arbitration, it would have to be done by September 13, 1974. Again appellee ignored the request and did not schedule the first negotiating session until September 21, 1974, thereby precluding appellant from meeting the time requirements set out by § ...