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decided: July 3, 1980.


No. 54 January Term, 1979, Appeal from Order of the Commonwealth Court entered at No. 1613 C.D. 1977, dismissing Plaintiff's Complaint and reversing Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County entered at No. 77-1819, in Mandamus.


Michael A. Paul, Media, for appellant.

James L. Crawford, Larry J. Rappaport, Asst. Attys. Gen., Harrisburg, for appellant-intervenor -- PLRB.

Peter J. Nolan, Media, for appellee.

Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Nix, Larsen, Flaherty and Kauffman, JJ. Nix, J., files a dissenting opinion.

Author: Roberts

[ 491 Pa. Page 64]


In this labor dispute between Darby Borough and its police employees, the Commonwealth Court held that a court of common pleas has no jurisdiction, in an action in mandamus, to order the municipality to perform its contractual duty arising out of a collective bargaining agreement. The Commonwealth Court concluded that the task of enforcing an arbitration award interpreting a collective bargaining

[ 491 Pa. Page 65]

    agreement between parties covered under Act 111 is exclusively within the jurisdiction of the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board (PLRB). We agree with the common pleas court, appellants Darby police and intervenor PLRB that such a reading of relevant labor statutes and case law authority is erroneous. Accordingly, we reverse the order of the Commonwealth Court, 38 Pa. Commw. 337, 394 A.2d 1298 and remand to the court of common pleas for determination of appropriate relief on the merits of appellants' complaint.

On September 10, 1975 appellee, the Borough of Darby, and appellants, Darby police, entered into an agreement "concerning terms and conditions of employment of the police officers of the Borough of Darby for the calendar year commencing January 1, 1976."*fn1 Disagreeing as to the proper computation of wages for the year 1977, the parties entered into binding arbitration pursuant to "Act 111," Act of June 24, 1968, P.L. 237, as amended, 43 P.S. § 217 et seq. On December 20, 1976, the Board of Arbitration entered an arbitration award providing that:

"Commencing January 1, 1977, the annual wage for each police officer shall be increased by Three Hundred ($300.00) Dollars plus a cost of living adjustment for all police equal to the increased cost of living as measured by the C.P.I. for the Philadelphia Region for the twelve month period ending October, 1976, to be added to the base wage."

[ 491 Pa. Page 66]

On February 11, 1977, appellant Geriot, on behalf of a class of Darby police officers, filed a complaint in mandamus in the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County. The complaint alleged that appellee was not computing the base wage in accordance with the terms of the collective bargaining agreement,*fn2 and requested the court to order appellee to pay appellants' wages in conformity with the agreement. Appellant's position was that although they received the cost of living increase for 1976, this increment was not included in the permanent base wage for computation of 1977 wages.

Appellee filed a preliminary objection, contending that the complaint should be dismissed because "the Plaintiffs have an adequate remedy at law other than an action in mandamus." Appellees claimed that appellants were seeking judicial review of the arbitration award, and that such review is exclusively available pursuant to Pa.R.C.P. 247.*fn3 It was

[ 491 Pa. Page 67]

    appellee's contention that since the 30-day period for filing an "application for review" had lapsed, appellants were barred from relief.

The court of common pleas dismissed appellee's preliminary objection, holding that (1) appellants were not seeking judicial review of the arbitration award, and (2) that a contractual obligation imposed by law may be enforced against a municipality by an action in mandamus. On appeal, the Commonwealth Court dismissed the mandamus action on the ground that the court of common pleas was without jurisdiction. The Commonwealth Court held that appellants' exclusive remedy for breach of the collective bargaining agreement was the filing of an unfair labor practice grievance with the PLRB pursuant to the Public Employees Relations Act (PERA or "Act 195"), Act of July 23, 1970, P.L. 563, § 1201(8), 43 P.S. § 1101.1201(8) (Supp.1979). In so holding the court stated:

"PERA and Act 111 are to be read in pari materia. The exclusive jurisdiction to resolve charges of unfair labor practices is placed in the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board by Section 1301 of PERA, 43 P.S. § 1101.1301. The reasoning behind this is set forth by Justice Pomeroy, speaking for a unanimous court, in Philadelphia Fire Officers Association v. Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board, 470 Pa. 550, 369 A.2d 259 (1977), reversing, 18 Pa. Commw.Ct. 487, 336 A.2d 477 (1975). . . ."

38 Pa. Commw.Ct. 337, 338, 394 A.2d 1298, 1299 (1978).

In our view, the Commonwealth Court's reliance on Philadelphia Fire Officers is misplaced. In that case, this Court held that the PLRA conferred jurisdiction on the PLRB to conduct a representation election in a bargaining unit consisting of fire and police officers. In so holding we sought to avoid the "absurd" result of requiring "employees of the courts of common pleas to conduct elections in firehouses and police barracks and stations." 470 Pa. at 557, 369 A.2d

[ 491 Pa. Page 68]

    at 262. Accordingly, in Philadelphia Fire Officers, Act 111, which does not cover the subject of representation elections, was read in pari materia with the PLRA.*fn4 Thus read, labor boards would "conduct secret elections through their staffs whose task it is to journey from workplace to workplace for such purpose." Id., 470 Pa. at 557, 369 A.2d at 262.

Hence, in Philadelphia Fire Officers practical considerations dictated that the PLRA, not the PERA, be read in pari materia with Act 111. Significantly, however, we did not hold that PERA governed the ...

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