Appeal from Common Pleas Court, Centre County; Honorable Charles C. Brown, Jr., PRES. JUDGE.
Jonathan Walters, Gary Gordon, Kirschner, Walters & Willig, Nancy B.G. Lassen, Alaine S. Williams, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for appellant.
Robert E. Durrant, Meyer, Darragh, Buckler, Bebenek & Eck, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Terry James Williams, Miller, Kistler & Campbell, Inc., State College, Pennsylvania, for appellee.
Craig and Palladino, JJ., and Narick, Senior Judge.
[ 127 Pa. Commw. Page 73]
The basic issue presented in this case is whether an equity court or the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board (PLRB)*fn1 has jurisdiction to compel an employer to arbitrate a grievance under Act 111. Counsel has not cited, nor have we found, any appellate court or PLRB decision considering this specific issue presented under Act 111.*fn2 For the reasons set forth below, we do not find that the Borough of State College's (Borough's) refusal to arbitrate a grievance, in itself, constitutes an unfair labor practice under Act 111 and the PLRA, enforceable by the PLRB. Rather, we find the refusal to arbitrate the grievance herein under Act 111 constitutes a breach of the parties' agreement and that a court of equity is the proper forum to order specific performance under general contract law, compelling arbitration of the grievance.
[ 127 Pa. Commw. Page 74]
The procedural and relevant facts are undisputed.*fn3 The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, District Council 83, AFL-CIO (Union) is the exclusive bargaining agent for the police officers employed in the Borough. The parties, pursuant to Act 111, entered into a collective bargaining agreement (agreement) for the period from January 1, 1986 to December 31, 1987. The agreement provided, as required under Act 111, that there be no strikes or work stoppages and that disputes and grievances would be handled through the grievance procedure, and the last step that could be taken by either party was arbitration.
A dispute arose concerning the suspension and demotion of one of the Borough's policemen and the Union filed a grievance alleging violation of the "just cause" provision of the agreement.*fn4 It ultimately requested arbitration as provided under the agreement. The Borough refused to proceed to arbitration whereupon the Union filed a complaint in equity to compel the Borough to do so. The Borough filed preliminary objections alleging that the PLRB had exclusive jurisdiction of the matter. The trial court sustained the preliminary objections and dismissed the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Union has appealed from the order of dismissal. We reverse the trial court.
Initially on appeal, the Union contends that the trial court erred in granting the demurrer. In determining whether to sustain the preliminary objections in the nature of a demurrer, all well-pled facts and inferences that may be deduced therefrom, but not conclusions of law, must be
[ 127 Pa. Commw. Page 75]
accepted as true. A demurrer will not be sustained unless the face of the complaint shows that the law will not permit recovery and any doubts shall be resolved against sustaining the demurrer. Travers v. Cameron County School District, 117 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 606, 544 A.2d 547 (1988).
The starting point of our inquiry is to recognize that employees covered by Act 111 are not, in any respect, covered by Act 195. Further, as a quid pro quo for eliminating the right to strike, the only method allowable for the settling of collective bargaining impasse disputes and grievances is arbitration. In Chirico v. Board of Supervisors ...