‘Union Leave’ Provision In Arbitrator’s Award Not Enforceable

When the Pennsylvania State Troopers Association and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania were unable to agree upon a collective bargaining agreement, their disputes were resolved by an arbitrator. One of the provisions in the Arbitrator’s award was that Union officers should be released from duty and “shall be paid by the Commonwealth at the amount designated by the Association’s Board of Directors, not to exceed the rate of the highest-ranking member of the bargaining unit with appropriate longevity.”

The Commonwealth challenged the “union leave” provision of the Arbitrator’s decision, arguing that it violated state pension law. The Pennsylvania Appellate Court agreed with the Commonwealth. The Court cited a provision of Pennsylvania law that granted retirement credits for compensation paid to employees on union duty but only if the level of compensation were “as if he were in full-time active service.”

The Court found that this provision meant that an employer must pay an employee on “union leave” at the “salary level commensurate with the position held by the employee. Because the ‘union leave’ provision here requires that the Commonwealth pay a different amount, i.e., whatever the Association designates, the provision requires that the Commonwealth violate the retirement statute.”

Commonwealth v. Pennsylvania State Troopers Association, 2009 WL 222457 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2009).

This article appears in the November 2009 issue