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Public Service Electric and Gas Co. v. System Council U-2

decided: March 31, 1983.

PUBLIC SERVICE ELECTRIC AND GAS CO., APPELLEES,
v.
SYSTEM COUNCIL U-2, INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF ELECTRICAL WORKERS, AFL-CIO, APPELLANT



APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY (DISTRICT JUDGE: HONORABLE VINCENT P. BIUNNO).

Seitz, Chief Judge, Adams and Garth, Circuit Judges.

Author: Seitz

SEITZ, Chief Judge.

This dispute involves the finality of a determination by an arbitration panel and arises out of a dispute over a collective bargaining agreement between Public Service Electric & Gas Company [Company] and System Council U-2, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers [Union].

Pursuant to an arbitration provision in the collective bargaining agreement, a duly constituted panel of arbitrators determined that the company's unilateral decision to consolidate two of its divisions breached the collective bargaining agreement. The panel instructed the parties to schedule a hearing on remedies when and if they determined such a hearing was necessary.

Without scheduling any hearing, the company petitioned the district court to vacate the panel's determination. Jurisdiction was predicated on section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 185. The district court vacated the determination, and the union appeals.

We must determine whether the panel determination was final and binding within the meaning of 29 U.S.C. § 185. If it was not, the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to vacate it. Truck Drivers Union v. Riss & Co., 372 U.S. 517, 520, 83 S. Ct. 789, 9 L. Ed. 2d 918 (1963). We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291.

I.

In 1978, the company unilaterally decided to consolidate its Bergen and Hudson divisions into a single Palisade division. The union objected to the consolidation on two grounds. First, it claimed that the collective bargaining agreement prohibited a unilateral decision to consolidate. Second, it claimed that the collateral effects of the consolidation, such as the dovetailing of seniority lists, violated various provisions of the collective bargaining agreement.

The parties agreed to bypass the grievance procedure provided for in the collective bargaining agreement and to take the first issue immediately to arbitration. With regard to the second issue, the company insisted that the union take grievances relating to the collateral effects of the consolidation through the normal grievance procedure. At the time of the expedited arbitration hearing, these grievances were not ripe for arbitration.

To avoid submitting more than the first issue to the arbitration panel, the company entered into careful negotiations with the union to phrase an appropriate submission. The parties finally agreed to submit to the panel the following question:

Did the company violate the collective bargaining agreement by dissolving the Bergen and Hudson Divisions and creating a new (Palisade) Division? If so, what shall the remedy be?

The parties then agreed to dispose of the submitted issue in two separate hearings. In the first hearing, the panel was to consider only the issue of liability. If the panel decided that the company had indeed breached the collective bargaining agreement, the parties would schedule a second hearing to determine an appropriate remedy.

The panel's liability determination reflects this agreement. "Since the issue submitted to the panel was bifurcated, and only the issue of violation is before the panel, the issue of violation is answered in the affirmative." Althoug the panel did not prescribe a remedy, the submission authorized the panel to address that issue, and neither the parties nor the panel intended the bifurcation agreement to ...


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