Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County in case of Port Authority of Allegheny County v. Amalgamated Transit Union, Division 85, No. GD 77-16502.
Robert E. Sheeder, with him James Q. Harty, of Reed, Smith, Shaw & McClay and Robert M. Brown of Ruffin, Hazlett, Snyder, Brown & Jack, for appellant.
Joseph J. Pass, Jr. of Jubelirer, McKay, Pass and Intriere, for appellee.
Judges Wilkinson, Jr., Rogers and Blatt, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Rogers. Judge DiSalle did not participate in the decision in this case.
[ 49 Pa. Commw. Page 231]
The Port Authority of Allegheny County (Authority) has appealed from judgment entered against it in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County effectively affirming a decision of an arbitration panel (Arbitrator) requiring the Authority to pay supplemental payment benefits to two members of the Amalgamated Transit Union, Division 85 (Union) and denying benefits to three members of the Union.
The Authority is a public body corporate and politic organized and operating pursuant to the Second Class County Port Authority Act, Act of April 6, 1956, P.L. (1955) 1414, § 1 et seq., as amended, 55 P.S. § 551 et seq. The Authority owns and operates an integrated mass transportation system throughout Allegheny County. The Union is an unincorporated labor organization representing the employees of the Authority. On February 5, 1974 the Authority and the Union entered into a collective bargaining agreement (Agreement) which governs the instant dispute.
[ 49 Pa. Commw. Page 232]
For more than forty years the Authority provided supplemental payment benefits for up to one year to its employees who were injured during the course of their employment, but only if the employees were not contributorily negligent. Originally, these payments were in the form of necessary articles such as food, shoes, or clothing. In more recent times, the Authority has replaced these in-kind benefits with cash payments in an amount equal to the difference between the injured employee's wages and the amount of his workmen's compensation benefits. The determination of whether or not an injured employee had been contributorily negligent was made solely by the Authority. In some cases, however, the Union had asked the Authority to reconsider its decision, and in some cases the Authority acceded to the request and had changed its first determination.
In the five cases underlying this appeal the Authority denied supplemental payment benefits to the employees. The Union, for the first time in the history of these benefits, demanded arbitration. The Union asserted that the Authority had granted benefits to other employees in factual circumstances similar to the circumstances in which the five employees denied benefits here sustained injuries and hence had violated Section 102 of the Agreement, which provides, inter alia, that the parties be "fair and just in all their dealings."
The Authority proceeded to arbitration, raising two issues: (1) was the issue of the propriety of the Authority's action with respect to supplemental payment benefits arbitrable; and (2) did the Authority properly deny benefits to the five employees. The Arbitrator found that the supplemental payment benefits constituted a past practice which had been incorporated into the Agreement and that the issue of the propriety of the Authority's actions was therefore
[ 49 Pa. Commw. Page 233]
arbitrable both under the Agreement's grievance procedure provision and under the fair and just standard of Section 102 of the Agreement. The Arbitrator then proceeded to review the merits of each of the five cases, upheld the Authority in two, in two others held that the Authority had incorrectly determined that the employees were contributorily negligent, and in the fifth case held that the employee, who had received the supplemental payment benefits for one year, was not entitled to benefits for a longer period because the past practice was to pay them only for one year. The Authority filed a Petition ...