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CITY SCRANTON v. LOCAL UNION NO. 669 INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION FIRE FIGHTERS (12/15/88)

decided: December 15, 1988.

CITY OF SCRANTON, APPELLANT
v.
LOCAL UNION NO. 669 OF THE INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF FIRE FIGHTERS, AFL-CIO, APPELLEE



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Lackawanna County in the case of City of Scranton v. Local Union No. 669 of The International Association of Fire Fighters, AFL-CIO, No. 87-CIV-2494.

COUNSEL

Sheldon Rosenberg, Rosenberg & Ufberg, for appellant.

Thomas W. Jennings, with him, Thomas H. Kohn, Sagot & Jennings, for appellee.

Judges Doyle and Smith, and Senior Judge Kalish, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Doyle.

Author: Doyle

[ 122 Pa. Commw. Page 141]

This is an appeal by the City of Scranton (City) from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Lackawanna County which first upheld an arbitration award and second granted the request of Local Union No. 669 of the International Association of Fire Fighters, AFL-CIO (Union) for payment of costs incurred for arbitration, attorney's fees and court costs. We affirm both determinations.

The background facts are interesting and novel. The City and the Union engaged in collective bargaining

[ 122 Pa. Commw. Page 142]

    negotiations for a new two-year contract to begin on January 1, 1987. When the parties reached an impasse, the Union requested that a board of arbitrators be appointed pursuant to Section 4(a) of the Act of June 24, 1968, P.L. 237, 43 P.S. § 217.4(a) (Act 111). Each party selected its own arbitrator and a third neutral arbitrator was also chosen. Before any proceedings were undertaken, however, the negotiators for the City and the Union reached an agreement in November 1986 and a proposed collective bargaining contract ensued. The arbitration proceedings were thereupon suspended pending action by the Scranton City Council.

On February 18, 1987, the City Council rejected the proposed agreement. Accordingly, the Union requested that arbitration be resumed and, on April 25, 1987, the neutral arbitrator convened an interest arbitration hearing. Despite proper notice, the City refused to attend or participate in either the hearing or the subsequent executive session. An award was nonetheless entered. The City then, being dissatisfied with the award, petitioned the trial court to, inter alia, (1) vacate the entire award, (2) hold that the clause in the award pertaining to maintaining a 200 bargaining unit employee work force for the duration of the contract involved a non-delegable and non-waivable duty of the executive and legislative branches, (3) order that the November 1986 contract which was submitted to, but not accepted by City Council was a complete, legally valid, enforceable contract, and (4) order that certain clauses of the collective bargaining agreement be expunged. The Union filed a cross-appeal to enforce the award and to compel payment of expenses incurred pursuant to Section 8 of Act 111, 43 P.S. § 217.8. The Union also sought payment of attorney's fees and court costs. The trial court consolidated the two petitions and by order dated January 7, 1988, it denied the City's appeal

[ 122 Pa. Commw. Page 143]

    and granted the Union's petition to enforce the award. It further granted the Union's request for expenses, attorney's fees and court costs. This appeal ensued.

It is well settled that our scope of review over an Act 111 arbitration award is in the nature of narrow certiorari and we may only inquire whether the arbitrator had jurisdiction, whether the proceedings were conducted with regularity, whether the arbitrators exceeded their authority and, in addition, may review any constitutional questions. Appeal of Upper Providence Township, 514 Pa. 501, 526 A.2d 315 (1987); Washington Arbitration Case, 436 Pa. 168, 259 A.2d 437 (1969). Keeping this limited review in mind, we shall consider the City's contentions.

First, the City contends that the arbitration panel was without jurisdiction to enter an award because the conditions precedent to the convening of such a panel had not been met. There is certainly some question as to whether the City waived these arguments inasmuch as it did not participate in the proceedings before the arbitrators and, hence, did not raise the issues there. Arguably, however, these challenges, although we deem them to be substantively meritless, could be viewed as subject matter jurisdictional in nature and, hence, capable ...


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