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City of Allentown v. International Association of Fire Fighters

July 23, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Senior Judge Flaherty

Argued: June 11, 2009



The City of Allentown (City) appeals from a decision of the Court of Common Pleas of Lehigh County (trial court) which denied and dismissed the City's amended petition to review an arbitration award. The trial court further ordered that the arbitration panel immediately convene and determine the rate of pay for a specialist firefighter without creating any committees to perform that task. We affirm.

City appeals from an arbitration award governed by the statute known as the Policemen and Firemen Collective Bargaining Act (Act 111), Act of June 24, 1968, P.L. 237, 43 P.S. §§217.1-217.10, in which the majority of a tripartite panel of arbitrators, consisting of Alan A. Symonette, Esquire (Symonette), John S. Stribula (Stribula) and Thomas C. Anewalt, Esquire (Anewalt)(Collectively, Panel), exercised jurisdiction over a dispute arising under the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the firefighter's union, International Association of Fire Fighters, Local 302 (Union), and the municipality, City.

City is a municipal corporation organized as a city of the third class operating under the Home Rule form of government and is the public employer of the firefighters for the City. Union is the exclusive bargaining agent for City firefighters below the rank of Deputy Chief pursuant to Act 111 and the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Act (PLRA), Act of June 1, 1937, P.L. 1168, 43 P.S. §§211.1 - 211.13.

The City and the Union are parties to the CBA effective January 1, 2005 through December 31, 2011 that is the product of a 2004 Act 111 interest arbitration award (Award I). Award I was issued by the same Panel that issued the decision the City is presently appealing.

Section 16 of Award I, titled "Rank Differential-Special Teams Pay Committee" provides in pertinent part as follows:

Effective immediately, a Rank Differential/Special Teams committee shall be established with three (3) members from the union and three (3) members from the City. The purpose of this committee shall be to examine the actual duties performed by these bargaining unit members relative to the compensation therefore. The committee shall conduct all necessary detailed studies to accomplish this purpose, said studies to be completed, and reduced to writing, no later than September 1, 2005. In the event of mutual agreement between the City and the union on Rank Differential/Special Teams pay, those changes shall be adopted immediately during the term of this award. In the event a disagreement arises between the union and the City on any such matter, that issue shall be brought back before this arbitration panel for binding arbitration. However, the jurisdiction of this panel shall expire on Friday, December 2, 2005.

Award I, Paragraph 16, at 22-23. Thus, a committee (Committee) was to be formed and it was to conduct detailed studies and reduce them to writing by September 1, 2005. After the Committee performed its studies, the City and Union were to discuss additional compensation for rank differential-special teams. If the parties could not agree on the issue of rank differential-special teams pay, the Panel retained jurisdiction as an interest arbitration panel until December 2, 2005, to resolve any outstanding issues by binding arbitration. The Committee, however, was never assembled and therefore, no written report was issued prior to the expiration of the Panel's jurisdiction on December 2, 2005.

On December 30, 2005, the parties executed a Memorandum of Understanding (Memo) which provides in pertinent part as follows:

9. For numerous reasons, not the least of which is the fact that City Council appealed the arbitration award, the Committee has been unable to meet the time constraints as allotted in the award.

10. In consideration of the foregoing, the parties, insofar as they are empowered, do hereby mutually agree to extend the provisions of Section 16 of the Arbitration award for a period of six months. (A copy of which appears in number 3 of this agreement). Being guided by the terms of this extension, the City and the Union would be required to perform studies and provide written reports no later than September 1, 2006.

11. In consideration of the fact that City and the Union are not empowered to extend the jurisdiction of the Arbitration panel in this instant case, the parties, in accordance with the provisions of the collective bargaining agreement and the American Arbitration Association's rules, do hereby alternately agree that the arbitration panel for any dispute arising out of the interpretation and/or application of Section 16 of the arbitration award shall be comprised of the following ...

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