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Jun
2013
14

1,100 Nurses Win Unemployment Benefits Stemming from Employer-Caused Work Stoppage at Temple University

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This week, an appeals court sided with the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals in labeling a 2010 work stoppage at Temple University “a lockout.” The decision will result in 1,100 unionized nurses at the school receiving unemployment benefits.

The three judge panel said a change in tuition reimbursement policy by management precipitated the one-month work stoppage.  The judge of the appeals court agreed with previous decisions that the change was contrary to the collective bargaining agreement.

When the case was first brought in 2010, the hospital appealed the decision.  At the time, the union’s executive director, Bill Cruice, told Philly.com:

We are thrilled that our legal position has been vindicated by this decision. The most important thing about this ruling is that it shows that Temple was engaged in reckless and aggressive bargaining, effectively locking out nurses and allied professionals instead of coming to the bargaining table and negotiating in good faith,”

In their opinion, the panel pointed to the state’s “status-quo test” as the basis of their ruling.  The court claimed management was at fault for the conditions that led to the stoppage:

[The] employer unilaterally caused the disruption and was required to restore the status quo in order to avoid the lockout and claimants could properly condition their return to work on the restoration of the status quo,” President Judge Dan Pellegrini said in the opinion.

LAW360 explains the final outcome:

Ultimately, in March 2010, the union then initiated a work stoppage over the issue, which lasted for almost a full month, until the parties reached a settlement, in which the hospital dropped its appeal, according to the opinion.

The union then filed for unemployment benefits for the period of the work stoppage, and the hospital resisted, appealing first the decision of the unemployment compensation service center and then the decision of the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review.

In its appeal to the Commonwealth Court, the hospital contended that the UCBR erred because the actual status quo was the period following the expiration of the 2006 CBAs, after the hospital had modified the tuition reimbursement policy, and that the union had budged from the status quo by going on strike.

But the court concluded that the true “peaceable and lawful” status quo between the parties was before the hospital changed the reimbursement policy, and the hospital was thus responsible for breaking the status quo.

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