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decided: October 6, 1978.


No. 129 March Term, 1976, Appeal from the Order dated February 6, 1976 of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania at No. 1506 C.D. 1974, which affirmed the Decree of the Court of Common Pleas Allegheny County, Civil Division, at No. 3161 April Term, 1974.


Ernest B. Orsatti, Jubelirer, McKay, Pass & Intrieri, Pittsburgh, for appellant.

D. R. Pellegrini, Asst. City Sol., Pittsburgh, for appellee.

Richard Kirschner, Philadelphia, for intervenor.

Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Eagen, C. J., concurred in the result. Pomeroy, J., filed a dissenting opinion.

Author: Nix

[ 481 Pa. Page 68]


The parties to this appeal, the Pittsburgh Joint Collective Bargaining Committee and the City of Pittsburgh, entered into a collective bargaining agreement dated July 25, 1973 which was in full force and effect until December 31, 1975.*fn1

On August 21, 1973 Frank Parsons, a member of appellant union, was suspended for five days, subject to discharge. On that same day, Mr. Parsons filed a grievance for unjust suspension and, subsequent to his discharge from the Department of Parks and Recreation of the City of Pittsburgh on August 28, 1975, filed a grievance with respect to his discharge. Appellant union, after duly exhausting all steps in the contractual grievance procedure*fn2 requested that the City submit the dispute to binding arbitration.*fn3 Upon the City's refusal to arbitrate the dispute, the

[ 481 Pa. Page 69]

    union filed a complaint in equity seeking a ruling requiring the City to submit the dispute to arbitration. The chancellor sustained the City's preliminary objections on the grounds that the discharge was not an arbitrable issue since it was within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Civil Service Commission of the City of Pittsburgh, and entered a decree dismissing the complaint, which decree was affirmed by the Commonwealth Court. We granted review. The dispositive issue is whether appellee may in this posture assert the defense that the grievance arbitration procedure to which it agreed in 1973 is in conflict with various provisions of the Civil Service Act, 53 P.S. § 23401 et seq. (1957 & Supp.1978-79), such that the implementation of the procedure is prohibited by section 703*fn4 of the Public Employee Relations Act of 1970 (Act 195). 43 P.S. § 1101.703 (Supp.1978-79). For the following reasons we conclude that appellee may not in the

[ 481 Pa. Page 70]

    instant context assert this defense in order to avoid compliance with agreed upon arbitration procedure.*fn5

The framework for public employee collective bargaining in this Commonwealth is provided by Act 195. The purpose of Act 195 is to promote orderly and constructive relationships between all public employers and their employees, to provide adequate means for the minimization and resolution of disputes between the public employer and its employees and to facilitate the development of harmonious relationships between the public employer and its employees. Id. § 1101.101. The statutory scheme enacted in this Commonwealth is unusual as compared with other states,*fn6 in that it affords certain public employees a limited right to strike after exhaustion of negotiation and remediation procedures, id. § 1101.1001-1003, and in that it provides for mandatory arbitration of "disputes or grievances arising out of the interpretation of the provisions of a collective bargaining agreement." Id. § 1101.903.

In supporting private sector grievance arbitration, the United States Supreme Court has relied upon evidence of Congressional intent, upon the principle of allocating decision-making power to the more expert tribunal, and upon the assumption that labor peace can best be accomplished through enforced use of dispute resolution machinery established by the parties themselves.*fn7 The rule is that, except when the contract clearly and expressly excludes the dispute from arbitration, the process set up in collective

[ 481 Pa. Page 71]

    bargaining negotiations must prevail.*fn8 Even frivolous grievances are to be sent to arbitration because of arbitration's therapeutic value in providing a safety valve for the ventilation of issues which might spill over in wildcat strikes or job actions.*fn9 In comparing our labor policy towards arbitration with that of the federal labor policy we have observed:

"The General Assembly, far from forbidding arbitration of disputes arising out of a collective bargaining agreement, expressly commands it in section 903 of ...

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