No. 80-1-129, Appeal allowed to the Supreme Court at No. 56 W.D. Misc. Dkt. 1980, from the Order of the Commonwealth Court entered Feb. 6, 1980, at No. 694 C.D. 1979 which Reversed the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Pa., Civil Division, entered March 6, 1979, at No. GD 77-16502.
Joseph J. Pass, Jr., Jubelirer, Pass & Intrieri, P. C., Pittsburgh, for appellant.
Robert E. Sheeder and James Q. Harty, Reed, Smith, Shaw & McClay, Pittsburgh, for appellee.
O'Brien, C. J., and Roberts, Nix, Larsen, Flaherty and Kauffman, JJ. Roberts, J., filed a concurring opinion in which Nix and Kauffman, JJ., joined.
In this case we are asked to review an order of the Commonwealth Court setting aside an arbitration award rendered at the close of a grievance arbitration proceeding between appellant, Division 85 of the Amalgamated Transit Union (Union), and appellee, Port Authority of Allegheny County (Authority).
This controversy arose in 1976, during the term of a collective bargaining agreement between the Union and the Authority. For more than forty years prior to this dispute, the Authority and its predecessor, Pittsburgh Railways Company, had engaged in the practice of providing supplemental assistance to employees who were absent from work due to injuries sustained in work-related accidents. This assistance, known as welfare payments, was paid only to those employees who were not contributorily negligent, and was intended to make up the difference between an employee's workmen's compensation benefits and his or her normal pay for a forty-hour work week. The determination of contributory negligence was made initially by the injured employee's supervisor, and was then subject to review by the Authority's Personnel Department. In the present case, the Union, by letter of March 12, 1976, demanded arbitration in the cases of five employees who were denied welfare payments by the Authority.
A three-man arbitration panel found in favor of two of the five employees on the issue of contributory negligence and awarded welfare payments to those employees. The Authority, seeking to vacate the arbitration award, filed a Petition for Review of Award of Arbitrator in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County. Upon cross motions for summary judgment, the Court of Common Pleas granted the Union's motion and denied the motion filed by the Authority. On appeal, the Commonwealth Court reversed and directed that summary judgment be entered in favor of the Authority. Port Authority of Allegheny County v. Amalgamated Transit Union Division 85, 49 Pa. Commw. 230, 411 A.2d 272 (1980). We granted the Union's petition for allowance of appeal and we now reverse.
The only issue in this case is whether the determination of contributory negligence is within the exclusive control of the Authority, or whether it is a proper subject of arbitration once arbitration has been demanded -- i. e., whether the subject matter of this dispute is within the jurisdiction of the arbitration panel, said jurisdiction being defined by the
parties' collective bargaining agreement. See County of Allegheny v. Allegheny County Prison Employees Independent Union, 476 Pa. 27, 31-32 & n.7, 381 A.2d 849, 851 & n.7 (1977). The holding of the ...