No. 102 E.D. Appeal Dkt. 1982, Appeal from the Order of the Commonwealth Court at No. 383 C.D. 1981, dated August 13, 1982, Affirming a Final Order of the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board at Case No. PERA-C-3157-C on February 5, 1981,
Roberts, C.j., and Nix, Larsen, Flaherty, McDermott, Hutchinson and Zappala, JJ. Larsen, J., files a dissenting opinion.
This appeal seeks to end ten years of litigation which originally arose when the Commonwealth refused to bargain with a duly authorized bargaining unit representing the Commonwealth's social service employees*fn1 about the issue of employee caseload.*fn2
An unfair labor practices charge was lodged by the union pursuant to the Pennsylvania Employe Relations Act (PERA)*fn3 on February 22, 1973, charging that the Commonwealth refused to bargain in good faith under PERA, 43 P.S. § 1101.1201(a)(1) and (a)(5). The Commonwealth insisted that the issue was not a matter subject to bargaining under section 701 of PERA*fn4 but was a matter of "inherent
managerial policy" under section 702.*fn5 Pursuant to section 702, the Commonwealth offered to "meet and discuss" the issue.
Following a hearing, the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board (hereinafter "Board") agreed with the Commonwealth that caseload was a matter of inherent managerial policy, and that the Commonwealth complied with its statutory duty in offering to meet and discuss. Consequently, the Board decided that refusing to bargain over a managerial prerogative such as caseload was not an unfair labor practice.
The Board's decision was affirmed by the Commonwealth Court in Pennsylvania Social Services Union v. Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board, 15 Pa. Commw. 441, 325 A.2d 659 (1974). However, this Court, in a per curiam decision, 474 Pa. 168, 377 A.2d 1267, vacated the decisions of the Board and the Commonwealth Court and remanded in light of our decision in Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board v. State College Area School District, 461 Pa. 494, 337 A.2d 262 (1975). Another hearing was held and, initially, in a NISI Decision and Order, the Board found caseload to be a subject for mandatory collective bargaining and that the Commonwealth committed an unfair labor practice in refusing to bargain. The Commonwealth filed exceptions and the Board reversed itself pursuant to Board rules.*fn6 34 Pa.Code § 95.98(f). The Board found again that there was
no unfair labor practice. The Commonwealth Court affirmed the Board's decision. Joint Bargaining Committee of Pennsylvania Social Services Union v. Commonwealth, Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board, 68 Pa. Commw. 307, 449 A.2d 96 (1982).
Our scope of review is limited. A decision of the Board must be upheld if the Board's findings are supported by substantial evidence, and if the conclusions drawn from those facts are reasonable, and not capricious, arbitrary or illegal. 43 P.S. § 1101.1501; Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board, 502 Pa. 7, 11-12, 463 A.2d 409, 411, (1983); St. Joseph's Hospital v. Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board, 473 Pa. 101, 104, 373 A.2d 1069, 1071 (1977); In re Appeal of Cumberland Valley School District, 483 Pa. 134, 139, 394 A.2d 946, 949 (1978). This Court "will not lightly substitute its judgment for that of a body selected for its expertise whose experience and expertise make it better qualified than a court of law to weigh facts within its field." Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board v. Butz, 411 Pa. 360, 377, 192 A.2d 707, 716 (1963); Appeal of Cumberland Valley School District, supra., 483 Pa. at 140, 394 A.2d at 949. See also, Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board v. Mars Area School District, 480 Pa. 295, 389 A.2d 1073 (1978), where we deferred to the Board's expertise and reinstated the final decision of the Board, holding that the decision to terminate teacher aides and replace them with volunteers was not inherent managerial policy and thus mandatorily bargainable.
Thus, the issue here is whether there was substantial evidence on the record to support the Board's conclusion that assignment of caseload was a managerial prerogative, and/or whether the Board erred as a matter of law in making its conclusion.
The starting point in our review of this case is Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board v. State College Area School District, supra., which dealt with the relationship between sections 701 and 702 of PERA. Section 701 requires good faith bargaining on issues pertaining to "wages,
hours and other terms and conditions of employment." While section 701 is restricted to these three items, the latter phrase -- "terms and conditions" -- is a broad one, since almost any matter confronting employees in the workplace can be viewed as affecting a term or condition of employment.
Meanwhile, section 702 gives public employers the license to refuse to bargain over matters of "inherent managerial policy," otherwise known as management prerogatives. The provision supplies an expansive definition of what constitutes "inherent managerial policy," including but not "limited to such areas of discretion or policy as the functions and programs of the public employer, standards of services, its overall budget, utilization of technology, the organizational structure and selection and direction of personnel." Again, almost anything touching on managerial discretion could be regarded as "inherent managerial policy," and therefore beyond the sphere of mandatory bargaining. Without a proper balance, the two sections might negate each other, a result which the legislature surely did not intend in passing PERA.
In resolving this conflict, the Court noted that prior to PERA, public employees were barred from striking and public employers were not required to engage in collective bargaining. PERA sought to correct what the legislature perceived as an "intolerable situation" by giving public employees the right to bargain collectively, tempered by the public sector's right and responsibility to manage the government, preserve public funds and protect the overall public interest. State College, Id. 461 Pa. at 502-503, 337 A.2d at 267-68. The Court then announced the following balancing test:
[W]here an item of dispute is a matter of fundamental concern to the employes' interest in wages, hours and other terms and conditions of employment, it is not removed as a matter subject to good faith bargaining under section 701 simply because it may touch upon basic policy. It is the duty of the Board in the first instance and the
courts thereafter to determine whether the impact of the issue on the interest of the employe in wages, hours and terms and conditions of employment outweighs its probable effect on the basic policy of the system as a whole. If it is determined that the matter is one of inherent managerial policy but does affect wages, hours and terms and conditions of employment, the public employer shall be required ...