Appeals from the Order of the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review in the cases of In Re: Claims of Thomas D. Grandinetti, No. B-225777; Claim of Barbara T. Kelley, No. B-225782; Claim of A. James Welch, No. B-225778; Claim of Marijane E. Dillon, No. B-225779; Claim of Margaret E. Sission, No. B-225780; and Claim of Charlotte Dobbs, No. B-225781.
George Levin, for petitioners.
No appearance for respondent.
Michael I. Levin, with him, William Fearen, Cleckner and Fearen, for intervenor, Erie School District.
Judges Doyle, Colins and Palladino, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Palladino. Judge Colins dissents.
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Petitioners in these consolidated cases are token unemployment compensation claimants who represent the members of the Erie Education Association (Union). In its decision below, the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review (Board) affirmed a referee's decision denying benefits under Section 402(d) of the Unemployment Compensation Law (Law),*fn1 concluding that Petitioners' unemployment was due to a strike, rather than a lock-out by the Erie School District (District).*fn2 For the reasons set forth below, we reverse.
In January of 1981, the Union and the District began negotiations in order to establish a new collective bargaining agreement to succeed the agreement which was to expire on June 30, 1981. In June of 1981, when it appeared that the negotiations would not be imminently fruitful, the Union agreed to continue working for a reasonable period of time beyond the expiration of the old agreement, under an extension of the terms of the old agreement.
One of the terms of the old agreement required the District to maintain hospital, medical, surgical and $250,000 major-medical insurance benefits equal to or greater than those provided in Blue Cross of Western Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania Blue Shield (BC/BS). Under the old agreement the District had maintained BC/BS coverage, but its contract with BC/BS was due to expire on September 30, 1981. Therefore, the District began soliciting bids for its insurance obligations in April of 1981. This solicitation produced one bid for health care insurance from Alpha, a health care
[ 87 Pa. Commw. Page 137]
plan of the Insurance Trust of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.*fn3
On July 15, 1981, the District elected to change insurance carriers from BC/BS to Alpha for a period of twenty-four months, to commence October 1, 1981. The Union, by letter dated July 20, 1981, advised the District that the change to Alpha altered existing benefits, that Alpha's coverage was not the same or equal to the existing BC/BS policies and if a new collective bargaining agreement was not reached by October 1, 1981, the change would be considered a change in status quo, and as such a lock-out.
On August 31, 1981, the dispute over the new collective bargaining agreement was referred to a fact finder by the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board (PLRB). The new school term began on September 8, 1981, and the Union members resumed working. On September 28, 1981, the Union advised the District that because of the change of insurance carriers effective October 1, 1981, the Union would consider its members locked out as of that date.*fn4 When the PLRB fact-finding period was over on October 23, 1981, the Union began its work stoppage at 4:00 p.m., and did not return to work until a new agreement was reached on December 17, 1981.
After the new agreement was in place, the Union filed a grievance, claiming that the change in insurance carriers violated the collective bargaining agreement because Alpha's coverage was not equal to or ...