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TOWNSHIP TINICUM v. WALTER FIFE (03/10/86)

decided: March 10, 1986.

TOWNSHIP OF TINICUM, APPELLANT
v.
WALTER FIFE, MICHAEL BURNS AND RALPH SLATTEN, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF THE POLICE DEPARTMENT OF THE TOWNSHIP OF TINICUM, APPELLEES. IN THE MATTER OF ARBITRATION BETWEEN THE TOWNSHIP OF TINICUM POLICE AND THE TOWNSHIP OF TINICUM. TOWNSHIP OF TINICUM, APPELLANT V. TOWNSHIP OF TINICUM POLICE, APPELLEE



Appeals from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County in the cases of Walter Fife, Michael Burns and Ralph Slatten, individually and on behalf of the Police Department of the Township of Tinicum v. Township of Tinicum, No. 80-13943, and In the Matter of Arbitration Between the Township of Tinicum Police and The Township of Tinicum, No. 81-12440.

COUNSEL

Robert Pappano, Pappano, Buckler & Breslin, for appellant.

Leonard V. Tenaglia, Richard DiSanti, Hamilton, Gallagher & Paul, for appellees.

Judges Craig, Barry and Palladino, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Craig.

Author: Craig

[ 95 Pa. Commw. Page 518]

The Township of Tinicum, a first class township, appeals from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County requiring the township to provide medical insurance benefits to all police officers in active service as of November 6, 1980, the date the police officers filed a declaratory judgment action, and providing that such benefits shall be retroactive to January 1, 1979, the first day covered by a 1979-80 arbitration award. We affirm.

The relevant facts are not in dispute; the parties stipulated to them in the proceeding before the trial court. On November 24, 1969, a board of arbitrators, appointed pursuant to the Act of June 24, 1968, P.L. 237, 43 P.S. § 217.1-217.27 (Act 111), issued an award for the contract year 1970, directing the township to provide "each police officer and his family upon his retirement, or disability, with the same Blue Cross and Blue Shield benefits as he now has." The township did not appeal from this award. Thereafter, the township and the police collective bargaining representatives executed three successive collective bargaining agreements, for the years 1971-72, 1973-74, and 1975-77.*fn1 None of these agreements contained a provision specifically relating to the medical insurance benefits for retired or disabled officers provided in the 1970 award. However, all three agreements contained an "Other Benefits" clause which read "[a]ll other benefits shall remain 'as is'".

[ 95 Pa. Commw. Page 519]

The township provided medical insurance benefits to its retired officers until January 4, 1977, when it informed three retired officers who had retired after the issuance of the November 24, 1969 arbitration award, that it was discontinuing their medical insurance benefits because Section 1502 of The First Class Township Code, Act of June 24, 1931, P.L. 1206, as amended, 53 P.S. § 56563, prohibited the township from providing such benefits to retired officers.

Thereafter, the township and the police representative executed successive collective bargaining agreements for the years 1978 and 1979-80.*fn2 These agreements again did not contain a specific medical insurance benefit provision for retired and disabled officers, but they did contain an "Other Benefits" clause similar to the earlier agreements.*fn3

On November 6, 1980, three officers, on behalf of members of the township police department active as of November 6, 1980, filed with the trial court the declaratory judgment action on appeal here, seeking to enforce a 1979 arbitration award which had allegedly incorporated the 1969 award. While that declaratory judgment action was pending, a board of arbitrators issued an award, pursuant to Act 111, for the contract years 1981-82, directing the township as follows:

Other Benefits -- It is recognized that the terms and conditions of employment as set forth in prior contracts or arbitration awards and the benefits previously enjoyed or awarded as of the date of this award have not been specifically reduced to writing ...


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