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City of Philadelphia v. International Association of Firefighters


July 23, 2010


Appeal from the Order of the Commonwealth Court entered on August 24, 2007 at No. 1906 CD 2006, affirming in part, reversing in part the Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Philadelphia County, Civil Division entered on September 6, 2006 at No. 3316 July Term 2006.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mr. Chief Justice CASTILLE*fn1


ARGUED: March 3, 2009


In this appeal, we review the Commonwealth Court's Order reversing the Order of the court of common pleas in part and vacating several provisions of an award issued by an arbitration board under the Act Governing Collective Bargaining by Policemen or Firemen ("Act 111" or "Act").*fn2 The provisions in question required that appellee City of Philadelphia ("City") collectively bargain the effects of closing several fire companies before the closures could be implemented by the City, establish a new pilot program for providing emergency medical services, and that the City revise the procedure by which paramedics fill open firefighter positions. For the reasons that follow, we affirm the Order of the Commonwealth Court, albeit on different grounds in part. Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV(B), as to Paragraph 9(A) of the Award, and Part IV(C), as to Paragraph 9(B) of the Award, of this Opinion are supported by a majority of the Court. Part IV(A), as to Paragraph 12 of the Award, is supported by three of the six Justices participating in this decision; accordingly, this Court is affirming by an equally divided Court, the Commonwealth Court's Order invalidating Paragraph 12 of the Award.


The City and appellant International Association of Fire Fighters, Local 22 ("Union") were parties to a collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") that expired on June 30, 2005. After negotiations to replace the agreement reached an impasse, the Union sought binding interest arbitration under Act 111.*fn3 A three-person arbitration board as required by the Act was convened and sixteen days of hearings followed, during which testimony and exhibits were received. Much of the evidence centered on the City's five-year financial plan adopted pursuant to the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority Act, and whether the City could financially afford increased benefits for employees of the Philadelphia Fire Department (the "Department"). Relevant to the present appeal, the parties disagreed on both the measures that should be taken to address the safety and health impact of the City's decision to decommission several fire companies and on the attrition rate that was occurring among fire service paramedics.

In mid-2006, in a 2-1 decision, the arbitration board issued its award covering the period July 1, 2005 through June 30, 2008. See In re City of Phila. & Phila. Fire Fighters' Union, IAFF Local 22, American Arbitration Association Case No. 14-L-360-00464-05 (June 28, 2006) ("Award"). The Award, under Paragraph 12, obligated the City to meet and discuss its intentions with the Union before the closing of a fire company. If the parties failed to agree on the "effects" of the closure,*fn4 the City was compelled to commission an independent impact study to address the expected financial savings and effects upon services, bargaining unit members, and safety. In the event the Union disagreed with the study's findings, the parties were to negotiate in good faith to resolve disputes surrounding firefighter safety. If those negotiations failed, the Union was permitted to submit the dispute to grievance arbitration. The arbitrator of the grievance, however, would not be able to alter the City's decision to reduce or eliminate fire companies, but could "order any necessary modifications to the plan which would maintain compliance with relevant safety standards." Award at 22-23, ¶12.*fn5

The Award also contained two provisions, both appearing in Paragraph 9, relating to the Department's provision of emergency medical services.*fn6 The object of Paragraph 9 was to alleviate the high levels of stress, burnout, and attrition that fire service paramedics were sustaining due to the nature of their work. Paragraph 9(A) stemmed from a Union proposal and obligated the Department to create a new two-year "ALS-Engine Pilot Program." Under the Program, the Department would assign firefighters who had previously worked as paramedics to newly formed ALS Engine companies, and could cross-train paramedics who were on the Firefighter eligible list and assign them to an ALS Engine company every fourth tour of duty. Paragraph 9(B), which neither party proposed, altered the established procedure for transferring from paramedic to firefighter status, giving paramedics with five or more years of service additional points in the testing process and prohibiting the City from refusing to appoint any paramedic whose name reached the Fire Fighter eligible list.*fn7 See Award at 19-20, ¶9.*fn8

The City-appointed arbitrator dissented from, inter alia, Paragraphs 9 and 12 of the Award. Relative to Paragraph 12, he expressed that the arbitration board lacked jurisdiction to fashion any award pertaining to the closure of fire companies, as that topic fell within the City's inherent managerial policy over which the City has no obligation to bargain. The arbitrator noted, moreover, that since the close of testimony, the City's position that it was only obligated to bargain concerning the impacts of fire company closure after such decommissioning had occurred, was buttressed by the Commonwealth Court's issuance of an opinion in another case involving the parties. See Philadelphia Fire Fighters' Union, Local 22 v. City of Philadelphia., 901 A.2d 560 (Pa. Cmwlth.), appeal denied, 906 A.2d 545 (2006) (Fire Fighters I).*fn9

As to Paragraph 9(A), the dissent opined that the proposed ALS-Engine Pilot Program impinged upon managerial policy, as it interfered with "manning and standards of service." The dissent continued, "This is more than an innocuous 'pilot program.' Rather, it is a program that directly interferes with the Department's ability to establish standards of service and it interferes with the [Fire] Commissioner's ability to select and direct personnel as necessary to provide services to the citizens of Philadelphia." In re City of Phila. & Phila. Fire Fighters' Union, IAFF Local 22, American Arbitration Association Case No. 14-L-360-00464-05, at 6-7 (June 28, 2006) (H. Thomas Felix, II, Esq., dissenting).

Finally, the dissent took issue with Paragraph 9(B) because the subject of paramedic transfer was not a topic in controversy before the board and no evidence on the subject was presented to the board. According to the dissent, paramedic transfer only arose as a dispute between the parties after the record was closed, and was resolved by the board on the basis of information received outside of the proceedings. In addition, the dissent found that portion of the Award violative of state law governing preference in the hiring of veterans, and, like Paragraph 9(A), to implicate matters of inherent managerial policy, namely, the City's hiring decisions for positions in the Department.

On July 27, 2006, the City filed a petition in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas to vacate several provisions of the Award, including Paragraphs 9(A), 9(B), and 12.*fn10 As to these paragraphs, the City claimed that the arbitration board exceeded its jurisdiction or authority because they concerned non-bargainable matters of inherent managerial responsibility. As to Paragraph 9(B), the City additionally claimed that the board did not have the authority to address the subject matter, since it concerned a topic the Union failed to raise. In response, the Union filed a counterclaim, seeking the Award's confirmation. On September 6, 2006, the common pleas court denied the City's petition, granted the Union's counterclaim, and confirmed the Award. On October 6, 2006, the City filed an appeal with the Commonwealth Court, raising the same issues as to Paragraphs 9 and 12 that it raised in the trial court.

The Commonwealth Court addressed the City's issues in a memorandum opinion. See City of Philadelphia v. International Ass'n of Fire Fighters Local 22, No. 1906 C.D. 2006 (Pa. Cmwlth. Aug. 24, 2007) (Fire Fighters II). The court first observed that its scope of review in Act 111 appeals was limited to narrow certiorari, and indicated that the City's contentions that several provisions in the Award concerned topics that are not subject to collective bargaining under Act 111 or that they addressed issues that were not placed in dispute raised reviewable questions of the board's jurisdiction and/or authority.

Turning to the City's contentions regarding Paragraphs 9(A) and 9(B), which mandated that the City establish the ALS-Engine Pilot Program and appoint any paramedic whose name appeared on the Fire Fighter eligible list, respectively, the court explained the framework it would apply in deciding whether the provisions fell outside of Act 111's purview. The court stated:

In general, an issue is deemed bargainable if it bears a rational relationship to an employee's duties. However, "where a managerial policy substantially outweighs the impact of an issue on employees, the topic will be deemed a managerial prerogative and non-bargainable." This court has held that it is a managerial prerogative to establish and utilize methods to select and use personnel as well as to measure and evaluate employee performance. Policies to achieve these ends are "essential to the proper and efficient functioning" of a police or fire department.

Fire Fighters II, Memorandum Op. at 10 (citing Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Rose of Sharon Lodge No. 3 v. PLRB, 729 A.2d 1278, 1281 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1999) and quoting Schuylkill Haven Borough v. Schuylkill Haven Police Officers Ass'n, 914 A.2d 936, 941 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2006) and Delaware County Lodge No. 27, FOP v. PLRB, 722 A.2d 1118, 1121 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1998)).

Applying these principles, the court highlighted the City's evidence on Paragraph 9(A)'s ALS-Engine Pilot Program, showing that the Program would exacerbate the current shortage of units to respond to emergency calls, hinder the City's ability to deploy resources where it believed they were needed, increase the costs of training, and burden personnel operating in the field. The court concluded that Paragraph 9(A) directly infringed upon the City's ability to manage its resources, direct its personnel, and provide its citizens the services it deemed best. The court further concluded that since "these managerial interests [of the City] have been judicially recognized as managerial prerogatives that substantially outweigh any impact on employees, the matter [in Paragraph 9(A)] was not subject to bargaining." Id. at 12. Accordingly, the court held that the arbitration board exceeded its jurisdiction and/or authority in rendering that portion of the Award. For the same reasons, the court found that the arbitration panel did not have the jurisdiction or authority to award Paragraph 9(B). The court explained:

We reach a similar conclusion regarding the provision that: "The City may not refuse to appoint any Fire Service paramedic whose name has been reached on the Fire Fighter eligible list." As this court has noted above, it is management's prerogative "to establish and utilize a method to aid in selecting and directing its personnel and in measuring and evaluating their performance. The ability to formulate policies in these areas is essential for the proper and efficient functioning" of the department. Again, mandating that the City appoint any paramedic whose name appears on the [F]ire [F]ighter eligible list deprives the City of discretion in promotion and appointment, thereby limiting its inherent authority to select and direct its personnel.

Id. at 13 (quoting the Award at 19-20, ¶9(B) and Delaware County Lodge No. 27, 722 A.2d at 1121.).*fn11

Likewise, the Commonwealth Court concluded that the arbitration board lacked the jurisdiction and/or authority to require in Paragraph 12 of the Award that the City arbitrate the impact of its decision to eliminate fire companies before moving forward with the closures. The court noted that its decisional law "establishes that an employer is not required to engage in pre-implementation bargaining with respect to changes in the size of its fire and police departments or plans to close stations. Rather, such policy decisions are a matter of inherent managerial prerogative not subject to arbitration or arbitral review." Id. at 14. Relying on its decision in International Ass'n of Firefighters, Local 669 v. City of Scranton, 429 A.2d 779, 781 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1981), the court determined that Paragraph 12's requirements impermissibly vested the Union and employees with the right to impact major governmental decisions, such as spending, budgeting, the level of fire protection the City would provide, and, ultimately, taxation. To reconcile this determination with the Fire Fighters I panel's holding regarding the Department's Redeployment Plan, the court explained:

The fact that we concluded in Fire Fighters I that the arbitrator's decision regarding the Redeployment Plan could not be reviewed under narrow certiorari does not command a different result here. There, the arbitrator's decision stemmed, in part, [from] an interpretation of the management's rights clause [of the CBA] and fact-finding regarding [the] safety of the Plan. Moreover, the grievance arbitrator specifically found that closure of firehouses is a managerial prerogative and so refrained from entering an award outside the scope of bargainable issues. Therefore, unlike the present arbitrators, he did not exceed his authority/jurisdiction.

Id. at 12 n.16.

Accordingly, the Commonwealth Court reversed part of the trial court's order and vacated Paragraphs 9(A), 9(B), and 12 of the Award. This Court granted the Union's Petition for Allowance of Appeal, asking that we consider whether the Commonwealth Court erred. See City of Philadelphia v. International Ass'n of Firefighters, Local 22, 955 A.2d 1013 (2008) (per curiam).


As a threshold matter, we begin with the scope and standard of review in Act 111 interest arbitration appeals. Even though Act 111 provides that the decision of an interest arbitration board is final and binding on the issues in dispute and "[n]o appeal therefrom shall be allowed to any court[,]" this Court has long recognized the practical reality that review of an arbitration board's award is not entirely precluded. See 43 P.S. § 217.7(a); Town of McCandless v. McCandless Police Officers Ass'n, 901 A.2d 991, 997 (Pa. 2006). Indeed, shortly after Act 111 became law, this Court determined that arbitration awards were reviewable under now former Supreme Court Rule 681/2 because, among other things, "'no adjudicatory body has unlimited discretion,' and 'each and every adjudicator is bound by the Constitution' and particularly by 'the mandates of due process.'" Id. at 999 (quoting Washington Arbitration Case, 259 A.2d 437, 440-41 (Pa. 1969)). Rule 681/2 pertained generally to those decisions that were unappealable by statute and to agency decisions stated to be final and conclusive, and set forth a procedure for effecting this Court's historical King's Bench power of common law certiorari. Id. at 998 & n.12; see Washington Arbitration, 259 A.2d at 441. Under narrow certiorari review, a court considers questions relating to four issues: (1) jurisdiction; (2) the regularity of the proceedings; (3) excess in exercise of powers; and (4) deprivations of constitutional rights. City of Pittsburgh v. FOP, 938 A.2d 225, 229 (Pa. 2007). Although Rule 681/2 was rescinded in 1972, narrow certiorari remains the appropriate construct for review of Act 111 arbitration awards. Appeal of Upper Providence Twp., 526 A.2d 315, 318 (Pa. 1987).

In applying narrow certiorari review in this case, the Commonwealth Court noted that "whether a matter involves arbitral authority or jurisdiction is not always clear[,]" and set forth its ruling by stating that the arbitration board "exceeded its jurisdiction and/or authority," in awarding Paragraphs 9(A), 9(B), and 12. Fire Fighters II, Memorandum Op. at 12, 13, 15 & n.9.*fn12 The court's apparent reluctance to specifically determine which one (or two) grounds of narrow certiorari -- jurisdiction or the excessive use of powers -- was implicated, and the inconsistent treatment these grounds have received in cases suggest that they are not thoroughly understood.*fn13 Accordingly, we take this opportunity to discuss these issues to provide guidance and to better focus our review.

As observed, narrow certiorari is a settled scope of review, emanating from this Court's historical and inherent powers. The inquiry that the jurisdiction prong of narrow certiorari has traditionally posed is a single and straightforward question -- did the decision-maker in the adjudicatory process act in that general class of controversies that the law empowers it to consider. See Dauphin Deposit Trust Co. v. Myers, 130 A.2d 686, 694 (Pa. 1957) (citations omitted) (applying narrow certiorari review and stating: "Jurisdiction relates to the competency of the particular administrative agency or Court 'to determine controversies of the general class to which the case presented for its consideration belonged.'"), cited in Washington Arbitration, 259 A.2d at 441 n.4. To answer this inquiry, a court looks to Pennsylvania's Constitution and the laws of the Commonwealth, the sources of a decision-maker's jurisdiction. Strank v. Mercy Hospital of Johnstown,102 A.2d 170, 172 (Pa. 1954).

In Article 3, Section 31, our Constitution states: "[T]he General Assembly may enact laws which provide that the findings of panels or commissions, selected and acting in accordance with law for the adjustment or settlement of grievances or disputes or for collective bargaining between policemen and firemen and their public employers shall be binding on all parties.." PA. CONST. art. III, § 31. In Section 4, Act 111 provides: "If in any case of a dispute between a public employer and its policemen or firemen employees the collective bargaining process reaches an impasse and stalemate.then either party.may request the appointment of a board of arbitration." 43 P.S. § 217.4(a). Under these provisions, then, an arbitration board is granted the power to hear and determine those disputes that arise out of the collective bargaining process between a public employer and its firefighters or police employees. Therefore, under narrow certiorari, the assertion that an arbitration board considered a controversy that is not of this type raises a question of jurisdiction.

By contrast, the excess of powers prong of narrow certiorari focuses upon the particular action an arbitration board took in resolving an Act 111 dispute and asks whether the action was authorized. In Washington Arbitration, we stated:

Whether the decision maker in an adjudicatory process has been guilty of an excess in the exercise of power depends fundamentally on whether he has gone outside the boundaries of his authority. No adjudicatory body has unlimited discretion. At the very least, each and every adjudicator is bound by the Constitution of the United States; and most are bound by even tighter strictures. The restrictions may go to the nature of the controversies which they can decide, the parties who may appear before them, the type of relief they may grant, or any other element in the adjudicatory process.

259 A.2d at 441. To illustrate the point, we referred to the Dauphin Deposit Trust Co. v. Myers case, in which this Court reviewed a refusal by the Secretary of Banking to issue articles of merger on the basis that the proposed combination would result in overbanking, and observed that although the Secretary had jurisdiction over the type of controversy involved and due process had not been violated, his decision had to be reversed because the Banking Code did not give him the authority to refuse a merger for such a reason. Id. at n.4.

We then explained that in Act 111 cases, since the adjudicatory power is an arbitration board which is a "creature of the Legislature," we were obligated to look to see if restrictions were placed on its powers, to measure its award against any such restrictions, and to correct any portion of its award that went beyond them, as that would reflect an act in excess of board powers. Id. at 441. To identify those limitations we turned to Act 111, and concluded that because the Act does not allow an illegal act, a board exceeds its powers if in its award it mandates that such an act be carried out. Id. at 442.

In this same vein, we have recognized that under Act 111, an interest arbitration board is "empowered to award any term or condition of employment to which a public employer and its police or fire employees may voluntarily agree," but is not empowered "to address issues outside of that realm." Township of Moon v. Police Officers of Twp. of Moon, 498 A.2d 1305, 1310 (Pa. 1985) (first quotation); Pennsylvania State Police v. Pennsylvania State Troopers' Ass'n (Betancourt), 656 A.2d 83, 90 (Pa. 1995) (second quotation). Hence, we have treated, and we affirm that, the assertion that an award concerns matters that are not subject to the right of collective bargaining under the Act implicates review under narrow certiorari as raising an excess of powers claim. Township of Moon, 498 A.2d at 1306 (explaining that allegations that arbitration board lacked statutory authority to impose grievance arbitration procedure or residency requirement in award presented question of excess in exercise of powers).

Finally, several provisions in Act 111 make clear that the authority an arbitration board is given to resolve disputes in the interest arbitration process extends to only those issues that the parties identify as disputed. See 43 P.S. § 217.4(a) ("If in any case of a dispute.[that] reaches an impasse and stalemate. either party to the dispute after written notice to the other party containing specifications of the issue or issues in dispute, may request the appointment of a board of arbitration."); 43 P.S. § 217.5 ("Notice.under [43 P.S. 217.4] shall, in the case of disputes involving the Commonwealth, be served upon the Secretary.and, in case of disputes involving political subdivisions.upon the head of the governing body.."); 43 P.S. 217.7(a) ("The determination of the.board.shall be final on the issue or issues in dispute.."); see also In re Arbitration Award Between Yoder Twp. Police and Lower Yoder Twp., 654 A.2d 651, 653 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1995) ("Section 4 of Act 111 is a codification of the longstanding common law rule that arbitrators must decide all the issues presented to them, and only those issues[.]"). Therefore, an award that embraces an issue that was not placed in dispute in accordance with Act 111's requirements may be challenged under narrow certiorari as reflective of an excess of powers.



The delineation of those matters that are subject to the right of collective bargaining as set forth in Act 111 is central to reviewing the Commonwealth Court's determination in the instant case that the Award concerned topics that the arbitration board did not have the power to regulate. Because this issue raises a question of statutory construction, our analysis must be guided by the Statutory Construction Act of 1972 ("SCA"). 1 Pa.C.S. § 1501 et seq. Under SCA, it is fundamental that "[t]he object of all interpretation and construction of statutes is to ascertain and effectuate the intention of the General Assembly." 1 Pa.C.S. § 1921(a). SCA provides that "[w]hen the words of a statute are clear and free from all ambiguity, the letter of it is not to be disregarded under the pretext of pursuing its spirit." 1 Pa.C.S. §1921(b). See Colville v. Allegheny County Retirement Board, 926 A.2d 424, 431 (Pa. 2007). When, however, the words of the statute are not explicit, the General Assembly's intent is to be ascertained by considering matters other than statutory language, like the occasion and necessity for the statute; the circumstances of its enactment; the object it seeks to attain; and the consequences of a particular interpretation. 1 Pa.C.S. § 1921(c); Commonwealth v. Packer, 798 A.2d 192, 196 (Pa. 2002). In addition, we presume that in enacting legislation, the General Assembly does not intend a result that is absurd, impossible of execution or unreasonable. Finally, we also presume that when enacting legislation, the General Assembly is familiar with extant law. White Deer Township v. Napp, 985 A.2d 745, 762 (Pa. 2009).

Guided by these principles, we first observe that the public entities that Act 111 covers make a variety of decisions. Some of these decisions relate to the public policies that public entities are responsible for formulating; some, to the governmental functions public entities undertake on behalf of their citizens; and some, to the relationship between public entities and the persons they employ. In Act 111, the General Assembly did not purport to subject every decision a public entity makes to collective bargaining. Rather, in Section 1, the General Assembly limited the right of collective bargaining to only those decisions that a public entity makes as an employer of its firefighters and police and which concern "the terms and conditions of their employment, including compensation, hours, working conditions, retirement, pensions and other benefits[.]" Section 1 states:

§ 217.1 Right to Bargain

Policemen or firemen employed by a political subdivision of the Commonwealth or by the Commonwealth shall, through labor organizations or other representatives designated by fifty percent or more of such policemen or firemen, have the right to bargain collectively with their public employers concerning the terms and conditions of their employment, including compensation, hours, working conditions, retirement, pensions and other benefits, and shall have the right to an adjustment or settlement of their grievances or disputes in accordance with the terms of this act.

43 P.S. § 217.1.

While Section 1 plainly provides that the right of collective bargaining is not absolute, the breadth of the right is not clearly stated. This is because the "terms and conditions of employment," "working conditions" or "other benefits" that Section 1 subjects to collective bargaining are themselves not further defined but are open-ended, and almost every decision a public entity reaches, including those relating to matters of public policy and governmental functions, may have an effect, however remote, on such topics. 43 P.S. § 217.1. Accordingly, we turn to factors set forth in § 1921(c) of SCA to ascertain the General Assembly's intent as to what the collective bargaining right in Section 1 encompasses.*fn14

With respect to the circumstances that led to Act 111's enactment, by the late 1930s, Pennsylvania's private sector employees enjoyed the right to organize and bargain collectively through representatives of their choosing, said right emanating from the passage of the original versions of the National Labor Relations Act ("NLRA"), 29 U.S.C. § 151 et seq., in 1935, and the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Act ("PLRA"), 43 P.S. § 211.1 et seq., in 1937.*fn15 In granting the right, Congress and the General Assembly had many of the same laudable aims. Both bodies sought to rectify the "inequality in bargaining power" between employer and employee that had led to industrial strife and to "encourage practices fundamental to the friendly adjustment of industrial disputes arising out of differences as to wages, hours, or other working conditions.." 29 U.S.C. § 151; 43 P.S. § 211.2(a),(b). Because PLRA was modeled after NLRA, the statutes set forth the right of collective bargaining in identical language, with a broad mandate that pay, wages, hours, or other conditions of employment be negotiated. 29 U.S.C. § 159(a); 43 P.S. § 211.7(a) ("Representatives designated or selected.shall be the exclusive representatives of all the employees [employes].for the purposes of collective bargaining with respect to rates of pay, wages, hours of employment, or other conditions of employment[.]") see Petition of Shafer, 31 A.2d 537, 539 (Pa. 1943) ("The Pennsylvania Labor Relations Act was obviously imitative of the National Labor Relations Act.").

As of 1937, and for almost thirty years thereafter, however, collective bargaining in Pennsylvania's public sector was seen as contrary to the public welfare and not allowed. Philadelphia Housing Authority v. PLRB, 499 A.2d 294, 297 (Pa. 1985). Due to the persistence of labor unrest among public employees, the belief that collective bargaining should have no application in the public sector lost sway. Ultimately, in 1968, in an attempt to quell labor strife and "strike a more perfect balance between the need of the Commonwealth to insure public safety and the rights of the worker[,]" the General Assembly finally addressed the disconnection as it pertained to front-line public safety employees, by extending the right of collective bargaining, already given to private sector employees, to firefighters and the police. Pennsylvania State Police v. Pennsylvania State Troopers Ass'n, 656 A.2d 83, 89 (Pa. 1995).*fn16 As it had done in PLRA, in Section 1 of the Act, the General Assembly followed NLRA's model in granting the right. That is, the General Assembly did not undertake in Act 111 to list or define all of the specific topics that the right covers, but instead adopted NLRA's broad language to indicate the topics that are subject to collective bargaining. See 43 P.S. § 217.1; 29 U.S.C. §§ 158(d), 159(a).*fn17

At the time the General Assembly passed Act 111, a body of law had developed in the federal arena with respect to distinguishing between those subjects that must be bargained under NLRA and those subjects of managerial policy and control that, despite NLRA's expansive language, remained committed to an employer's sole discretion. See, e.g., Jays Food, Inc. v. NLRB, 292 F.2d 317, 320 (7th Cir. 1961) (concluding that employer's decision to make changes in operations and abandon part of business was a basic management decision falling outside of NLRA's purview).

In 1964, the U. S. Supreme Court addressed the issue. In the landmark case of Fibreboard Paper Products Corp. v. NLRB, 379 U.S. 203 (1964), the Court was asked to determine whether an employer's decision to contract out plant maintenance work that had been performed by his employees fell within the "wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment" collective bargaining provision of NLRA. In holding that the matter was bargainable under the circumstances presented, the Court found, inter alia, that the employer's decision fell literally within the words of the provision and that bargaining about the matter would not significantly abridge the employer's freedom to manage the operations of his business. Id. at 212-13.

In a highly influential concurring opinion, Justice Potter Stewart wrote that even though the right of collective bargaining was stated broadly in NLRA, the right was limited by the statute's words to a particular class of topics, and that even though most employer decisions had an impact upon the terms and conditions of employment, it was never Congress' intent to subject all such decisions to collective bargaining. Id. at 217-226 (Stewart, J., concurring). In the Justice's view, given the aims of NLRA and the history of its enactment, Congress' intent to limit the right of collective bargaining would be served by recognizing that those employer decisions that had an indirect or uncertain impact on the employment relationship, as well as those employer decisions that concerned matters that were fundamental to an employer's entrepreneurial control, were not to be included in the class of bargainable topics. Id. at 223.*fn18

In light of the historical development of collective bargaining for firefighters and police, the General Assembly's objective in extending the right of collective bargaining to these essential public employees, the occasion for Act 111's enactment, the legal landscape that existed at the time of the Act's passage, and the consequences of particular interpretations, it is apparent that the General Assembly intended that the scope of collective bargaining set forth in Section 1 be viewed broadly, to encompass any subject that is rationally related to the "terms and conditions of employment," including employee "compensation, hours, working conditions, pensions, retirement and other benefits." 43 P.S. § 217.1. See Borough of Ellwood City v. PLRB, ___ A.2d ___ (Pa. 2010), J-7A&B-2009, Slip Op. at 13 (concluding that under Act 111, working conditions, a topic of mandatory collective bargaining, are those matters that bear a rational relationship to the employees duties, i.e., germane to the working environment).*fn19 At the same time, and in light of the very same considerations, it is equally apparent that the General Assembly had no intention or expectation that the collective bargaining process would permit public employees to set matters of public policy or participate with their public employer in administering the public enterprise. Accordingly, we construe the General Assembly's use of open-ended language in Section 1 and its silence in the Act on matters of managerial prerogative as conveying the intent that matters of managerial decision-making that are fundamental to public policy or to the public enterprise's direction and functioning do not fall within the scope of bargainable matters under Section 1. See id. at 15 (recognizing that under Act 111, matters that are managerial in nature and implicate significant policy concerns are not subject to collective bargaining). Such managerial prerogatives include standards of service, overall budget, use of technology, organizational structure, and the selection and direction of personnel. Id. at 14-15.

In our view, this construction of Section 1 advances the General Assembly's aim to foster peaceful and productive labor relations between public employers and their firefighter and police employees and gives effect to the General Assembly's recognition that a public employer is also a public entity responsible to all of its citizens for a number of decisions that concern the public welfare. Indeed, a different construction of Section 1, which would include managerial prerogatives within its purview and thus give to only a select few the right to participate in decisions that have far-reaching political and economic implications for an entire community, would be unreasonable and inconsistent with principles upon which our system of democratic governance is founded.*fn20


Turning to the application of Section 1's framework in interest arbitration appeals such as this one, it is clear that if an award bears no rational relationship to the terms or conditions of employment or acts solely on a managerial prerogative, the arbitration board has exceeded its statutory powers under Act 111 and the award must be set aside. Commonwealth Court decisions reveal, however, that assessing the propriety of most arbitration awards is not so straightforward. Because management decisions regarding policy or direction almost invariably implicate some aspect of employer-employee relations or the workplace, disputed arbitration awards more often than not concern both the terms and conditions of employment and the public employer's managerial prerogatives. Since the General Assembly did not provide a statutory standard in Act 111 for the courts to use to distinguish between those awards of this type that are consistent with the scope of collective bargaining in Section 1 and those awards that are not, this Court must.*fn21

Given the General Assembly's intent in passing Act 111, we conclude that, when reviewing a disputed provision in an Act 111 interest arbitration award, a court should first inquire whether the provision concerns a topic that is subject to the right of collective bargaining, i.e., is rationally related to the terms and conditions of employment. If the topic is so subject, the court should next inquire whether the award also implicates the nonbargainable managerial prerogatives of a public employer. If the award does, the court must then determine whether the award unduly infringes upon the exercise of those managerial responsibilities. If the award does not unduly infringe upon their exercise, the award concerns a subject that lies within the scope of collective bargaining under Section 1, falls within the arbitration board's Act 111 powers, and is confirmable. If, however, the award unduly infringes upon the exercise of managerial responsibilities, then the award concerns a managerial prerogative that lies beyond the scope of collective bargaining, reflects an excess of the board's Act 111 powers, and is voidable.*fn22*fn23


It remains for us to apply these principles to Paragraphs 9 and 12 of the Award. As the parties discuss Paragraph 12 first in their respective briefs, and then Paragraph 9, we also will evaluate the provisions in that order.*fn24


As discussed, the disagreement over Paragraph 12 involves whether the arbitration panel exceeded its powers by mandating that the City first come to agreement with the Union over the effects of a fire company closure before implementing the closure. The Union contends that the question of whether this provision is rationally related to the health and safety of the firefighters and, thus, to their working conditions, is a factual issue to be determined by the fact-finder; it stresses that the arbitrators here found, upon an extensive evidentiary record, that a rational relationship exists between company closure and firefighter safety. That being the case, the Union asserts that this Court must defer to such finding and uphold the award under narrow certiorari review. The City responds that because a requirement of pre-implementation bargaining interferes significantly with its managerial decision-making, it is non-bargainable under Act 111. In this regard, the City emphasizes that the Commonwealth Court has consistently upheld the principle that fire station closure implicates the level of services that a municipality is willing and able to afford its citizens and, as such, must fall outside the ambit of issues properly subject to arbitration. The City also argues that the underlying purpose of the mandated pre-closure bargaining is to permit the Union to influence and ultimately alter the City's decision concerning which fire companies to close. The City proffers that allowing the Union to interfere with its organizational plan in this manner would render its "right" to implement fire company closures meaningless.

The City does not dispute that the closure of fire companies may have an effect on the safety of the firefighters and the conditions in which they work. The reasons are self-evident: fire company closures may mean a greater average travel time and distance to a given fire, resulting in a higher probability of accidents en route, as well as a more dangerous situation upon arrival. Thus, it is clear and undisputed that Paragraph 12, in addressing the safety issues that firefighters may confront when firehouses are eliminated, rationally relates to the terms and conditions of employment. At the same time, however, the parties agree that final decisions concerning the size of a municipality's fire department, the creation, continuance, and closure of companies, and the redistribution of resources and a workforce are recognized as classic examples of managerial prerogatives that a public employer decides on its own. See generally City of Scranton, 429 A.2d 780-81 & n.3.

Since Paragraph 12 concerns both the terms and conditions of employment of the City's firefighter employees and the City's managerial responsibilities, it must be determined whether Paragraph 12 unduly infringes upon the latter, through its requirements that the City reach an agreement with the Union regarding the effects of such closure and, follow a prescribed course of action of several steps, which includes grievance arbitration, in the event that such an agreement with the Union is not reached. We conclude that it does unduly infringe on the City's managerial responsibilities.

In our view, the procedure a public employer adopts for making essential decisions on managerial matters is no less significant than the decision on substance that the employer ultimately reaches. As to decisions regarding fire company closures, in Paragraph 12, the Award takes from the City the complete control it had over of its own decision-making process as to a subject that indisputably lies within its sole discretion under Act 111. That is, Paragraph 12 modifies the decision-making process the City has heretofore followed in decommissioning fire companies and imposes a further procedure upon the City that it must undertake, before a fire company can be closed. Under this provision, decisions of closure cannot be made upon the City's analysis alone, but only after what the Union considers a proper evaluation, and eventual arbitration, of the impacts of the closures. In addition, by the terms of Paragraph 12, the City is not permitted to put its closure plan into place until after it has completed the specified multi-step process. Even if no change is made to the City's initial closure plans because of those requirements, the fact remains that the City is precluded from moving forward with its plan in the timeframe that City officials believe would implement closure in an economical and efficient manner and best serve its citizens. This is no small matter in times of public fiscal economic scarcity, such as the City unquestionably faces now. Further, because Paragraph 12 inserts the Union as a participant into the City's decision-making process and requires that the City bargain with the Union over a proposed closure's effects prior to implementation, the provision has the capacity to assert a profound influence over the City's closure decisions, and ultimately, the City's policy judgments as to spending, budgeting, levels of fire protection and emergency medical services it should provide, and the prioritization and allocation of competing essential services.

Therefore, we conclude that even though Paragraph 12 is rationally related to the terms and conditions of employment of the City's firefighters, the process it mandates unduly infringes upon the City's essential management responsibilities. Because Paragraph 12 unduly infringes upon the City's managerial prerogatives, it falls outside the scope of collective bargaining in Section 1. Accordingly, we hold that the arbitration board exceeded its powers under Act 111 in the Award in question.


In Paragraph 9(A) of the Award, the arbitration board sought to put into place a new type of service to be offered by the City -- an ALS Engine Pilot Program.*fn25 According to the arbitration board, this new service would allow paramedics to rotate to engine duty which, apparently, is comparatively less stressful than the work performed as part of a medic unit. The Union, which devised the program, asserts that this was a permissible award when viewed against the backdrop of a long history of health and safety concerns arising out of paramedic burnout owing to the large volume of emergency medical assistance calls to the Department. The Union also maintains that this provision is limited and narrow, and only obligates the City to assess the utility of rotating paramedics into engine companies.

The City answers that the arbitration board apparently thought that the City should provide more ALS units than it does at present, and that such care should be offered not only through medic units, but also through fire engines specially equipped with sophisticated medical equipment that the engines do not currently incorporate. The City states that this implies it must create a new type of vehicle to offer this higher level of care, but without any ability to transport critically ill individuals, since fire engines do not transport patients. Particularly as the greatest need, in the City's view, is for additional BLS services rather than services at the more sophisticated ALS level, the City urges that this portion of the award interferes with its managerial functions to decide the level and types of services it should provide to city residents, and to direct its personnel. The City argues that the level of services its fire department should provide -- whether through the first responder engines, medic units, or something that does not currently exist such as ALS engines -- as well as the type of personnel best suited to perform those services in each instance, are the province of policymakers accountable to the voters.

The Union asserts that Paragraph 9(A) is aimed at ameliorating the workload and stressful working environment that paramedics face, and it is obvious that Paragraph 9(A) is rationally related to employee duties and working conditions. But, as the City points out, Paragraph 9(A) just as obviously implicates its managerial interests in determining the level of services that it can afford to make available to its citizens, the staffing that is needed, and the manner by which its workforce should be selected and deployed. Thus, here too, the disputed issue is whether Paragraph 9(A), though rationally related to terms and conditions of employment, unduly infringes upon the City's managerial responsibilities.

We certainly do not discount the seriousness of the problem of stressful working conditions and attrition among the City's paramedic corps. But, the difficulty with Paragraph 9(A) is that it usurps the City's essential managerial responsibilities to determine the types and levels of medical emergency protection it deems necessary to provide and to select and direct its financially-strapped resources and personnel. Again, the issue involves far more than simply working conditions. As the City indicates, under Paragraph 9(A), it must now secure ALS-equipped engines that it does not have; it must alter the way that it assigns firefighters and paramedics who will be providing medical services; and it must abandon its plan to meet an increased need for BLS services among its residents. Notably, even the Union itself touts the ALS Engine Pilot Program as a more efficient way of delivering services and managing a work force, demonstrating its implicit recognition that the program implicates managerial prerogatives. We find that Paragraph 9(A), while certainly aimed at working conditions, unduly infringes upon the City's managerial responsibilities to make workforce assignments and decide upon the levels of emergency medical services that the City can afford to provide and the manner by which such services will be delivered. Accordingly, we conclude that Paragraph 9(A) falls outside of the scope of collective bargaining in Act 111, and thus, we hold that the arbitration board acted in excess of its powers in the Award in question.


Paragraph 9(B) of the Award mandates that the Fire Department assign extra points to, and hire as a firefighter, any paramedic whose name has been reached on the eligible list. The City advances several reasons to affirm the invalidation of this provision.*fn26 Among the reason asserted is the contention that the arbitration board exceeded its authority in awarding Paragraph 9(B) because the provision is unrelated to any topic that was certified by the parties as being in dispute before the board. In this regard, the Union counters that, although the specific requirements memorialized in Paragraph 9(B) were not placed in dispute as such, a board's ability to act within the scope of the issues actually certified is "expansive," and Paragraph 9(B) is sufficiently related to the proposals submitted by the Union aimed at improving the safety and working conditions of its paramedics because these proposals raised issues relating to compensation, health and safety, paramedic scheduling, and paramedic staffing. The Union indicates, moreover, that throughout the hearings it addressed its concerns regarding paramedic burnout. Because all past attempts by Act 111 arbitrators to address this difficulty had been unsuccessful, according to the Union, it was reasonable for the present panel to consider the required hiring as a firefighter of any paramedic certified from the eligible list to be related to the issues actually submitted.

We agree with the City that Paragraph 9(B) is insufficiently related to any issue that was placed in dispute. Here, the record shows that other than the ALS Engine Pilot Program, the Union submitted four specific proposals pertaining to paramedic schedules and compensation. These included provisions to: (1) provide paramedics with a one-hour lunch break during each work shift; (2) enhance compensation for paramedics designated to serve as preceptors for paramedic trainees; (3) make the percentage wage differential between paramedic lieutenants and paramedics fourteen percent (so as to align it with the existing wage differential between fire lieutenants and firefighters); and (4) develop and use a paramedic performance evaluation form, rather than using the firefighter evaluation form. None of these proposals is related to the concept of facilitating paramedics to leave their jobs entirely by giving them hiring preference when they apply for a different job. The Union's argument reduces to the position that Paragraph 9(B) is subsumed within these proposals because it, like the proposals, is addressed to the topic of paramedic stress and burnout. This simply is not a sufficiently direct connection to render the paramedic transfer provision an issue in dispute before the board. Therefore, we hold that the arbitration board exceeded its powers in awarding Paragraph 9(B).


For the reasons set forth above, the Order of the Commonwealth Court, reversing the order of the court of common pleas in part and vacating Paragraphs 9(A), 9(B), and 12 of the Award, is affirmed, but on different grounds as to Paragraph 9(B). Jurisdiction is relinquished.

Former Justice Greenspan did not participate in the decision of this case. Mr. Justice Eakin and Madame Justice Todd join the opinion.

Mr. Justice Saylor files a concurring and dissenting opinion in which Mr. Justice Baer joins.

Mr. Justice McCaffery files a concurring and dissenting opinion.

Appendix A

Paragraph 12 of the Award requires that the following provision be added to the collective bargaining agreement:

Company Reductions or Eliminations. It is understood that the determination of the overall size of the Fire Department is ultimately a managerial decision. However the City remains obligated to negotiate the effects of the decision. Such decisions when made are usually irrevocable. Accordingly the parties must reach a resolution on the effects of the reduction or elimination of any engine or ladder company prior to its implementation. The following procedure is intended to reach such a resolution as quickly as possible:

1. Discussion. In the event that the City determines it is necessary to reduce or eliminate any fire company, it will advise the Union of its intention and promptly meet with the Union to discuss its plan.

2. Impact Study. In the event the City and the Union are unable to reach agreement on the effects of the City's plan, and the Union asserts that the City's plan increases the risk to Firefighter safety, then the City must commission and complete an impact study, conducted by an independent third party mutually agreed to by the parties, which study shall include but not [be] limited to:

a. Detailed projections of the savings to be achieved by the proposed reduction or closure; and

b. An analysis of the impact of the proposed action on the delivery of emergency services, the safety of bargaining unit members, and compliance with relevant safety standards including but not limited to NFPA 1710. Once the study has been completed, a copy shall be provided to the Union.

3. Negotiations. In the event that the Union, within thirty (30) days, registers opposition to the findings contained in the Impact Study or with the proposed reduction or elimination of companies as they relate to Firefighter safety, the City shall negotiate in good faith with the Union to resolve any disputes over Firefighter safety arising from the proposed reductions or closures.

4. Dispute Resolution. In the event the City and the Union are unable to resolve their issues related to the effects of proposed reduction or closure, the Union may submit any unresolved issues to the grievance procedure pursuant to the Safe Workplace provision of this Award. In addition to any other arguments raised by the parties, the arbitrator will consider the impact of the proposed reductions and/or closures on the City's financial ability to provide emergency services to the public, the City's compliance with relevant safety standards, including but not limited to NFPA 1710, and the impact o[f] the reductions and/or closures on the health and safety of firefighters. The arbitrator may not impose his or her judgment with respect to the City's decision to reduce or eliminate companies but may order any necessary modifications to the plan which would maintain compliance with relevant safety standards.

5. Nothing herein shall diminish the applicability or enforceability of other staffing provisions of the collective bargaining agreement.

Award at 21-23; see RR. 57-59.

Appendix B

Paragraph 9 of the Award states, in relevant part:

9. Paramedics

A. Effective January 1, 2007, the Fire Department will implement a two-year ALS Engine Pilot Program that will run through June 30, 2008. Cross-trained Firefighter/Fire Service Paramedics assigned to work on ALS Engine companies as part of the Pilot Program will be selected from the pool of Firefighters who have previously worked as Fire Service Paramedics within the Philadelphia Fire Department. The Fire Department may also cross-train Fire Service Paramedics who are on the Firefighter eligible list and utilize those employees on an ALS Engine. Such employees will rotate from their regularly-assigned company to work as part of an ALS-Engine company every fourth tour-of-duty.

B. Paramedic Transfer. The current transfer process from the class of Fire Service Paramedic to class of Firefighter will be revised as follows with regard to any appointment made on or after July 1, 2005:

1. Any Fire Service Paramedic with five (5) or more years of service who takes and passes the open, competitive examination for the class of Firefighter pursuant to Civil Service Regulations, shall receive an additional ten (10) points added to his or her examination score which will be in addition to any veteran or other points applicable under the Civil Service Rules and Regulations. The City may not refuse to appoint any Fire Service Paramedic whose name has been reached on the Firefighter eligible list.

Award at 19-20; see RR. 55-56 (emphasis added).

The final sentence above is emphasized to indicate the change from the prior award covering the 2002-2005 time period. The final sentence of the corresponding paragraph in that award provided as follows:

Any Fire Service Paramedic who is appointed to the class of Firefighter under this provision shall be appointed as an entry-level Firefighter, provided that their pensions continue to accrue without a break in service.

In re Arbitration between Local 22, IAFF, AFL-CIO, and City of Phila., American Arbitration Association Case No. 14-L-360-00317-02-W, at 11-12 (March 20, 2003); see RR. 697-98.

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