No. 33 March Term, 1979, Appeal From the Order of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania dated January 26, 1979, at No. 1305 C.D. 1977.
Gary M. Lightman, Mancke & Lightman, Harrisburg, for appellant.
David H. Allshouse, Deputy Atty. Gen., Harrisburg, for appellee.
Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Nix, Manderino, Larsen and Flaherty, JJ. Manderino, J., did not participate in the decision of this case.
Appellant is the widow of a former Pennsylvania State Police Trooper who was stricken with Leukemia in March, 1976, and died as a result of that illness on September 22, 1976. Mrs. Grottenthaler instituted an action against the
Pennsylvania State Police in the Commonwealth Court, in the nature of mandamus, seeking payment of certain benefits claimed to be due as a result of her late husband's illness and death. 40 Pa. Commw. 165, 398 A.2d 220 (1979). A divided Commonwealth Court denied the relief requested and an appeal was taken to this Court. 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 723(a).
The issues raised in this appeal are whether either an arbitration award of December 27, 1973 ("Gershenfeld Award"), or provisions of the collective bargaining agreements for the subsequent years, granted Mrs. Grottenthaler a right to the requested benefits. The Commonwealth Court found that her right to recovery was barred by the provisions of the State Retirement Code (Code), 71 Pa.C.S.A. § 5101 et seq. (Supp.1978-79), sustained a preliminary objection filed by appellee and dismissed the action. For the reasons that follow, we conclude that the Code does not preclude the relief sought and that the action must be reinstated.
The Act of June 24, 1968, P.L. 237, 43 P.S. § 217.1 et seq. (Act III) granted for the first time in this jurisdiction collective bargaining rights for policemen or firemen employed by a political subdivision of the Commonwealth or by the Commonwealth. Section 1 of Act III provided, inter alia, the right to bargain collectively "concerning the terms and conditions of their employment, including . . ., retirement, pensions and other benefits, . . . ." In addition, Section 1 of Act III stated that disputes or grievances were to be adjusted or settled by way or arbitration. In 1973, pursuant to Act III, the Fraternal Order of Police, the bargaining representative for the Pennsylvania State Troopers entered into arbitration with the Commonwealth over a contract dispute. As a result, the Gershenfeld Award dated December 27, 1973, was entered over the dissent of the Commonwealth Arbitrator. See 1968, June 24, P.L. 237, No. 111, § 4(b); 43 P.S. § 217.4(b) (Supp.1978-79). That award provided in pertinent part:
vested, or any suit or prosecution pending or to be instituted to enforce any right or penalty or to punish any offense under ...