decided: July 7, 1978.
WAYNE A. KOCH AND FREDERICK C. HAMMER, JR., APPELLANTS
BELLEFONTE AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT, APPELLEE
Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Centre County in case of Bellefonte Area School District v. Wayne A. Koch and Frederick C. Hammer, Jr., No. 4 October Term, 1973.
Michael S. Ramage, with him Spencer, Gleason & Hebe, for appellants.
John R. Miller, Jr., with him Miller, Kistler & Campbell, Inc., for appellee.
Michael I. Levin, with him William Fearen, and Cleckner & Fearen, for amicus curiae, Pennsylvania School Boards Association.
President Judge Bowman and Judges Crumlish, Jr., Wilkinson, Jr., Mencer, Rogers, Blatt and DiSalle. Opinion by Judge Blatt.
[ 36 Pa. Commw. Page 439]
Wayne A. Koch and Frederick C. Hammer (appellants) appeal here from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Centre County which enjoined the arbitration of two grievances filed by the appellants against the Bellefonte Area School District (district).
The appellants are members of the Bellefonte Area Education Association (association), which went out on strike between September 11 and 26, 1972. Twelve instructional days were lost from the 1972-73 school year as a result. The appellants filed the grievances at issue in April and June of 1973, and both grievances alleged that the district's decision not to reschedule
[ 36 Pa. Commw. Page 440]
the instructional days lost in the strike violated the collective bargaining agreement (agreement) between the parties which stated that the school year would consist of 182 days. Both grievances proceeded through four of the five steps specified in the agreement's grievance procedure with the district denying the grievances at each step. The appellants then requested that the dispute be submitted to arbitration as provided in step five of the procedure and asked the Bureau of Mediation of the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry to supply a list of arbitrators from which the parties could choose. An arbitrator was chosen and an arbitration hearing was subsequently scheduled.
Prior to the arbitration hearing, however, the district filed a complaint in equity with the Court of Common Pleas of Centre County requesting it to preliminarily enjoin the arbitration of the grievances. The preliminary injunction was granted by the lower court after a hearing. In two subsequent actions, the lower court first refused to permanently enjoin the arbitration and dissolved its preliminary injunction and secondly considered the merits of the district's complaint and held essentially that the grievances were not a proper subject for arbitration under the parties' agreement. We do not believe that the lower court had jurisdiction here to prevent arbitration of the grievances.
This Court has recently held in a case similar to the present one that a court of common pleas lacks equity jurisdiction to enjoin arbitration which arguably involves an unfair labor practice. See School District of Penn Hills v. Penn Hills Educational Association, 34 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 507, 383 A.2d 1301 (1978). Our holding in Penn Hills, supra, relied on our Supreme Court's decision in Hollinger v. Department of Public Welfare, 469 Pa. 358, 365 A.2d 1245 (1976), wherein
[ 36 Pa. Commw. Page 441]
the Court construed the language of Section 1301 of the Public Employe Relations Act,*fn1 (PERA) 43 P.S. § 1101.1301,*fn2 to mean that "if a party directly seeks redress of conduct which arguably constitutes one of the unfair labor practices listed in Article XII (Section 1201) of the PERA, 43 P.S. § 1101.1201 (Supp. 1976), jurisdiction to determine whether an unfair labor practice has indeed occurred and, if so, to prevent a party from continuing the practice is in the PLRB [Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board], and nowhere else." Hollinger, supra, 469 Pa. at 366, 365 A.2d at 1249. (Emphasis added.) Noting our prior recognition that a failure to submit a grievance to arbitration is a failure to discuss the grievance and hence constitutes a Section 1201(a)(5) unfair labor practice charge,*fn3 we concluded in Penn Hills that the school district's actions in seeking to enjoin arbitration mandated by PERA was conduct arguably constituting an unfair labor practice and that jurisdiction over the matter lay with the PLRB.
The same reasoning would seem to apply here. The controversy here, which concerns the number of days in the 1972-73 school year, is arguably a grievance,*fn4 and a refusal to arbitrate this grievance or an attempt
[ 36 Pa. Commw. Page 442]
to circumvent the arbitration process would arguably be an unfair labor practice. In effect, the lower court was asked to decide whether or not the association was attempting to arbitrate something that was not a grievance under the agreement or, in the alternative, whether or not the district was required to submit the controversy to arbitration. It was called upon to examine the conduct of both parties so as to determine whether or not what either of them did could arguably constitute an unfair labor practice as described in Section 1201 of PERA. In light of the exclusive jurisdiction given to the PLRB in these matters by Section 1301 of PERA, therefore, the lower court had no jurisdiction to act here and we must therefore reverse its order.
And Now, this 7th day of July, 1978, the order of the Court of Common Pleas of Centre County, numbered 4 October Term, 1973 (Equity) and dated March 17, 1977, is hereby reversed.