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City of York v. International Association of Firefighters

December 29, 2011

CITY OF YORK
v.
INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF FIREFIGHTERS, LOCAL UNION NO. 627, APPELLANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rochelle S. Friedman, Senior Judge

Argued: October 18, 2011

BEFORE: HONORABLE DAN PELLEGRINI, Judge HONORABLE PATRICIA A. McCULLOUGH, Judge HONORABLE ROCHELLE S. FRIEDMAN, Senior Judge

OPINION BY SENIOR JUDGE FRIEDMAN

International Association of Firefighters, Local Union No. 627 (Union) appeals from the December 3, 2010, order of the Court of Common Pleas of York County (trial court) that granted the City of York's (City) Petition to Vacate Arbitration Award. We reverse and remand.

The Union and the City operated pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) encompassing the period from January 1, 2004, to December 31, 2006. Before expiration of that CBA, the parties commenced negotiations for a successor CBA. On May 2, 2006, the Union declared an impasse pursuant to Section 4 of the Act of June 24, 1968, P.L. 237, as amended, 43 P.S. §217.4 ("Act 111").*fn1

The parties selected a panel of arbitrators (arbitration panel or Panel), which was scheduled to begin hearings on a successor CBA on October 18, 2006. However, before that date, the City and Union tentatively agreed to the terms of a 2007-2012 CBA. The parties thus cancelled the Panel hearings.

The Union's membership voted to ratify the successor CBA on October 17, 2006. The City and the Union held a joint press conference to announce the agreement. Over the next several weeks, the parties exchanged correspondence concerning the details of the successor CBA's language. The City maintains that the parties produced a final document memorializing the terms of the successor CBA. The Union contends that the negotiations derailed, and the parties never agreed to a final version. In any event, the City became aware on December 5, 2006, that the Union was withdrawing its settlement offer and that it had chosen to proceed to interest arbitration.*fn2

Even so, City Council, on December 19, 2006, approved the successor CBA, and the appropriate City officials executed the document. When the City sent the CBA to the Union for signature, the Union refused to execute it. Nonetheless, the City unilaterally implemented the terms and conditions of the successor CBA, effective January 1, 2007.*fn3

However, because the Union had declared impasse for a second time, an arbitration panel was selected. The City objected to the Panel's jurisdiction based on its assertion that a successor CBA had already been approved.*fn4 The Panel held hearings on April 23, October 18, and November 1, 2007. During the hearings, both parties adduced evidence in support of their respective positions, including the City's position that the matter was not arbitrable because the parties had entered into a binding agreement. Thereafter, on September 10, 2009, the parties' neutral arbitrator executed the interest arbitration award (Award). This Award set forth the Panel's jurisdiction as follows:

I. JURISDICTION

A dispute exists as to whether the parties had reached agreement on the terms of a successor [CBA] prior to the commencement of hearings in this case. The Panel finds that there is not sufficient evidence to determine whether there was an effective meeting of the minds between the City and Union with respect to negotiations preceding the presentation of evidence to this Panel. Accordingly, the Panel determines that no binding contract between the parties hereto occurred.

(Award at 1.)

The City's partial arbitrator, however, dissented to the Award, stating that "this matter is not arbitrable because the 2007-2012 Agreement controls . . . and it is, consequently, unnecessary for this Panel to render an opinion as to the terms and conditions of an additional successor agreement." The City's partial arbitrator also specifically objected to the Panel's jurisdiction. (Dissent of Partial Arbitrator at 2-3; R.R. at 160-61.)*fn5

The City appealed to the trial court, which, on December 3, 2010, vacated the Award in its ...


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