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USW v. INTERPACE CORP.
March 20, 1978
UNITED STEELWORKERS OF AMERICA, AFL-CIO-CLC and LOCAL 3125, UNITED STEELWORKERS OF AMERICA, Plaintiffs
INTERPACE CORPORATION, SHENANGO CHINA DIVISION, Defendant
The opinion of the court was delivered by: SNYDER
The issue before the Court is whether an arbitration award in a contract interpretation dispute requires this Court to enforce it by ordering wage payments to the grievants, to remand the case to the arbitrator for clarification on the issue of wage payments, or to dismiss the action on grounds that the dispute between the Union and the Company presents a new issue that should be resolved through the grievance procedure outlined in their Collective Bargaining Agreement.
This dispute arose in August 1975, when the Defendant-Employer, Interpace Corporation (Company), without notice to the Plaintiff-Union, Local 3125 of the United Steelworkers of America (Union), instituted an incentive wage rate for those employees operating its English Roller Machine (Machine). This reduced the hourly wage rate paid to the Machine Operators, Pascarella and Micco, who, in turn, filed the following grievance (Exhibit B to Complaint):
"About eight years ago the English Roller Tool (Jiggering Machine) was put into operation. Mr. Pascarella a hand jigger operator replaced by the English Roller Tool was paid average rate up to 8-25-75. On 8-25-75 an Incentive Plan became effective. The plan did not earn for Mr. Pascarella and presently does not earn for Mr. Micco the average straight time hourly earnings of prior six months period prior to the awarding of the job."
They based their claim for relief on Article XIX, Section 2 of the March 1974 Collective Bargaining Agreement, which both the Union and the Company concede was in force at the time (Complaint para. 5, Answer para. 1), which states:
"In the case of employees manning future mechanized operations whose average straight time hourly earnings exceed the day rate and/or incentive earnings for the new job, their average straight time hourly earnings for the six month period prior to the awarding of the job shall be paid. In case employees have been on their job less than six months, the time on their job shall be used to calculate the average hourly earnings.
In the case of machine operations which were established prior to November 9, 1956, the established system of payment presently in effect shall continue to be used."
Unable to resolve the grievance, the parties submitted the matter to an arbitrator, Dr. John W. May (Arbitrator), who sustained the grievance on grounds that the Company violated the contract by failing to notify the Union of the new incentive rate, and that installation of the Machine constituted a mechanization of an old job under Article XIX, Section 2. Under this ruling, the wage rate applicable was the "average straight time hourly earnings" for the six months preceding the "awarding" of their operator jobs. The Arbitrator, however, did not compute the amount of back-pay due the grievants under the award, and the Company and Union disagreed on when the "awarding" of the job for purposes of determining the back-pay took place. The Company maintained that on the basis of past practice and a 1959 Agreement, the average earnings should be based on the six months immediately before the date when each employee first worked on the Machine (Budd Affidavit, Exhibit EE; Mannarino September 16, 1977 Affidavit, Exhibit 1). The Union contended that Pascarella's average should be computed for the six months preceding the initiation of the incentive plan and that Micco's average should be derived from the six months prior to his bid and permanent assignment to the Machine in April of 1976 (Budd Affidavit, Exhibit DD). The Arbitrator responded to requests that he clarify his award in a letter on July 17, 1977, which reads, in part, as follows:
"The request of the parties in an extension of the award rendered on 22 December 1976 and was not a part of the issue at the time of the hearing. It is not within the authority of the Arbitrator to compute the retroactivity as that is governed by the Contract and Supplemental Agreements.
Now Company Exhibit 1 and Company Exhibit 2 have been incorporated in Article XIX and payment is computed on the employees average straight time hourly earnings for the six month period prior to the awarding of the job. Not on the basis of a temporary assignment or temporary transfer, but when he was assigned the job by bid or permanent transfer.
A transfer to an operation is not to be interpreted as temporary, filling in, etc., but when that became his vested job. Paragraph four then states once this hourly rate is computed, it stays fixed during all subsequent periods. Micco bid in on the English Roller Tool in April 1976. His rate would then be computed for all time at the six month ...
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