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ALIQUIPPA EDUCATION ASSOCIATION AND DOLORES B. VRABEL v. SCHOOL DISTRICT BOROUGH ALIQUIPPA (12/08/81)

COMMONWEALTH COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA


decided: December 8, 1981.

ALIQUIPPA EDUCATION ASSOCIATION AND DOLORES B. VRABEL, APPELLANTS
v.
SCHOOL DISTRICT OF THE BOROUGH OF ALIQUIPPA, APPELLEE

Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Beaver County in case of School District of the Borough of Aliquippa v. Aliquippa Education Association and Dolores B. Vrabel, No. 1030 of 1980.

COUNSEL

Daniel R. Delaney, Delaney and Evans, for appellants.

John A. Havey, Havey, Neff and Salopek, for appellee.

President Judge Crumlish, Jr. and Judges Blatt and Craig, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Craig. President Judge Crumlish dissents.

Author: Craig

[ 63 Pa. Commw. Page 92]

Aliquippa Education Association (association) and Dolores B. Vrabel, a tenured teacher in the Borough of Aliquippa School District (district) and a member of the bargaining unit represented by the association, appeal from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Beaver County which reversed an arbitrator's decision favorable to Vrabel.

On September 11, 1979, the association filed a contract grievance against the district on behalf of Vrabel, alleging that the district violated the statutory savings clause of the collective bargaining agreement by failing to grant Vrabel a sabbatical leave for the second semester of the 1979-80 school year and the first semester of the 1980-81 school year. Following an arbitration hearing before Arbitrator Patrick J. Basial, the arbitrator found the grievance to be arbitrable and issued an opinion and award which sustained the grievance.

[ 63 Pa. Commw. Page 93]

Upon appeal, the common pleas court rejected the award because it found the dispute not to be substantively arbitrable; the labor contract between the parties was devoid of any specific reference to sabbatical leaves. Hence the common pleas court decided that the arbitrator exceeded his power by interpreting the agreement's definition of grievance*fn1 together with its statutory savings clause*fn2 so as to conclude that the parties intended, by reference, to incorporate into their agreement rights granted as to sabbatical leaves to professional employees under the Public School Code of 1949*fn3 (School Code). We cannot agree with the common pleas court.

Where an arbitrator's interpretation of a collective bargaining agreement can be in any way rationally derived from that agreement, the arbitrator's decision

[ 63 Pa. Commw. Page 94]

    draws its essence from the agreement and shall not be disturbed by a reviewing court. Teamsters Local Union No. 77 v. Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, 17 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 238, 331 A.2d 588 (1975). A reviewing court may disturb the award only where there is a manifest disregard of the agreement, completely unsupported by principles of contract construction. County of Lackawanna v. Service Employees' International Union, 35 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 531, 387 A.2d 161 (1978).

In the absence of express provision to the contrary, an arbitrator properly exercises his discretion by basing his conclusion on the implications of the agreement. Leechberg Area School District v. Dale, Pa. , 424 A.2d 1309 (1981). American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees v. Hollidaysburg Area School District, 60 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 617, 432 A.2d 304 (1981).

Here the issue depends upon the effect to be given the collective bargaining agreement's statutory savings clause. The common pleas court interpreted the third sentence of the statutory savings clause to indicate that the parties intended to keep rights granted by the agreement separate from rights granted by the School Code; although that interpretation is reasonable, it is no more reasonable than that adopted by the arbitrator, that such language was intended to incorporate statutory rights not specifically enumerated in the agreement.

Consequently, we are convinced that the common pleas court erred by not deferring to the arbitrator's interpretation of the agreement. See In Re Appeal of Chester Upland School District, 55 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 102, 423 A.2d 437 (1980), affirming an arbitrator's award predicated upon the arbitrator's interpretation of a similar statutory savings clause so as to embrace existing non-statutory rights not specifically enumerated in a collective bargaining agreement.

[ 63 Pa. Commw. Page 95]

The submission to arbitration of public employee grievances arising out of the interpretation of provisions of a collective bargaining agreement is favored in Pennsylvania. County of Allegheny v. Allegheny County Prison Employees Independent Union, 476 Pa. 27, 381 A.2d 849 (1979). That policy would hardly be advanced if we were to accept the district's contention that the availability of an action in mandamus constitutes a procedure provided by Pennsylvania law which should preclude this matter from arbitration.

Accordingly, we reverse the decision of the common pleas court.

Order

Now, December 8, 1981, the order of the Common Pleas Court of Beaver County dated January 9, 1981, is reversed and the award of the arbitrator is reinstated.

President Judge Crumlish dissents.

Disposition

Reversed. Arbitration award reinstated.


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