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Millcreek Township Police Association v. Millcreek Township

November 21, 2008

MILLCREEK TOWNSHIP POLICE ASSOCIATION, APPELLANT
v.
MILLCREEK TOWNSHIP



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Leavitt

Argued: October 14, 2008

BEFORE: HONORABLE BONNIE BRIGANCE LEADBETTER, President Judge, HONORABLE MARY HANNAH LEAVITT, Judge, HONORABLE JOHNNY J. BUTLER, Judge.

OPINION

Millcreek Township Police Association (Association) appeals an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Erie County denying the Association's petition to vacate an arbitration award issued pursuant to the act commonly known as Act 111.*fn1

In this case we consider whether the arbitrator exceeded his jurisdiction by considering issues outside the scope of the grievances filed by two police officers, and whether the arbitration award unlawfully reduced the officers' retirement benefits. We affirm.

The Association and Millcreek Township have been parties to a series of collective bargaining agreements (CBA) governing the terms and conditions of employment of the Township's police officers. The first CBA pertinent to this case was effective from January 1, 2000, through December 31, 2002 (2000 CBA).

Article 13(B) of the 2000 CBA provided post-retirement health insurance for police officers and their spouses in accordance with the following terms:

ARTICLE 13 -- HEALTH, WELFARE AND PENSION

B. Health. . Upon retirement, the officer may at his option, continue his hospitalization insurance at the group rate with coverage provided for the retirees and their spouses of the group plan. Premiums will be paid by the Township for future retirees and their spouses as follows:

(1) The Township will pay the premium cost for an officer and spouse, coverage will be provided by Blue Cross and Blue Shield, or its equivalent, with the same or comparable benefits as before retirement.

(4) The Officer will certify in writing to the Township at time of retirement and no less often than annually thereafter that he and his spouse are not eligible for hospitalization coverage without cost to them by virtue of other employment, spousal coverage, etc. Officers and their spouses who are eligible will not qualify for this benefit during such eligibility.

Reproduced Record at 36a-37a (R.R. __). The 2000 CBA provided health insurance to its active and retired police officers through an indemnity plan type of coverage.

At the end of 2002, the Association and the Township agreed to extend the terms of the 2000 CBA until December 31, 2004. The contract extension also created a Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP) for officers.*fn2 Under the DROP provision, an officer chooses a retirement date, after which he continues working and receives the same salary, sick days and vacation days as an active officer. During the DROP period, the participant's monthly pension benefits are paid into an interest-bearing account, available for withdrawal upon final separation from service. Final separation must take place no later than 36 months after the date the officer elects to enroll in the DROP. Participation in the DROP program is voluntary.

The Association and the Township negotiated a new CBA at the end of 2004, effective from January 1, 2005, through December 31, 2007 (2005 CBA). The 2005 CBA modified health insurance benefits for active and retired officers in several important ways. ...


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