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INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION FIRE FIGHTERS v. CITY SCRANTON (05/26/81)

decided: May 26, 1981.

INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF FIRE FIGHTERS, LOCAL 669, APPELLANT
v.
CITY OF SCRANTON, APPELLEE



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Lackawanna County in case of City of Scranton v. International Association of Fire Fighters, Local 669, No. 69 September Term, 1978.

COUNSEL

Thomas W. Jennings, Sagot and Jennings, for appellant.

John J. Brazil, City Solicitor, with him Ralph P. Iori, for appellee.

President Judge Crumlish and Judges Craig and Williams, Jr., sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Williams, Jr. Judge Wilkinson, Jr. did not participate in the decision in this case.

Author: Williams

[ 59 Pa. Commw. Page 236]

The International Association of Firefighters, Local 669 (Union) appeals to this Court to reverse a decision of the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas vacating the award of a Board of Arbitration. The award mandated that the City of Scranton (City) increase its minimum complement of regularly appointed fire fighters to 225 persons.

Pursuant to contract renewal, the Union and the City entered into negotiations which ultimately resolved all major issues except the minimum number of fire fighters on the force. The Union maintains that this is a condition of employment under the collective bargaining agreement, directly related to the safety of the union members. The City holds the position that the size of the force is a decision unique to managerial prerogative, and one which is not susceptible of arbitration as a condition of employment, as that term is used in Section 1 of the Act of June 24, 1968, P.L. 237, as amended, 43 P.S. ยง 217.1 (Act 111).*fn1

In an opinion consisting primarily of the reproduction of a letter from the then Superintendent of the Scranton Bureau of Fire to the Director of Public Safety, the Board of Arbitration held that "safety rules and staffing practices are important provisions of firefighting." It went on to say that a determination that safety matters are exclusively within the scope of managerial decision-making would denigrate the impact of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHA)*fn2 upon working conditions.

[ 59 Pa. Commw. Page 237]

Upon an appeal of that decision by the City, the Common Pleas Court held that matters pertaining to the size of the general manpower complement are outside the parameters of the arbitrators' authority. The Union has appealed that decision to this Court, asking whether the alleged understaffing of the fire department bears a rational relationship to the performance of the fire fighters' duties, which will therefore sustain a determination that the staffing complement is a bargainable issue under Act 111. No appellate court in Pennsylvania has addressed the issue of whether the number of persons on a fire force, as a safety factor, bears a rational relationship to the performance of a fireman's duties, such that it is a bargainable "condition of employment" under Act 111.

In examining the decisions of courts of our sister states, however, we find that the question, as it pertains to other states' statutes governing collective bargaining for fire fighters, has been examined. See City of New Rochelle v. Crowley, 403 N.Y.S. 2d 100, 102, 61 A.D.2d 1031, 1032 (1978), in which the court stated that "(a) union . . . may not force management to negotiate general questions of manpower deployment under the guise of safety, and PERB has been diligent in safeguarding management's prerogatives in such situations." In the context of the establishment of a health and safety committee to have jurisdiction over matters including the minimum number of fire fighters assigned to each piece of equipment, and the number to be sent to each fire, the court said that "neither it (the committee) nor the arbitrator may consider general minimal manning requirements," (emphasis added) indicating that this is clearly within the scope of managerial discretion.

See also, International Association of Firefighters of the City of Newburgh v. Helsby, 399 N.Y.S. 2d 334, 336, 59 A.D.2d 342, 344-45 ...


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