Claim for Survivors Benefits Under the Collective Bargaining Agreements In Pennsylvania

In Grottenthaler v. Pa. State Police, 488 Pa. 19, 410 A.2d 806 (1980), the collective bargaining agreements (CBA) provided for survivor's benefits at a time when Section 5955 of the State Retirement Code, 71 Pa. C.S. 5955, removed pension rights from the bargaining table. Specifically, Section 5955 provided that, "pension rights of State employees shall be determined solely by this part or any amendment thereto, and no CBA between the Commonwealth and its employees shall be construed to change any of the provisions herein." 488 Pa. at 22, 410 A.2d at 807 (quoting Section 5955). This court concluded that Section 5955 barred a claim for survivor's benefits under the applicable CBA. The Supreme Court disagreed, stating: Here the employer is the Commonwealth. the prohibition set forth in Section 5955 is not constitutionally mandated by either the state or federal constitutions. Section 5955 merely represents an exercise of legislative judgment. to permit the Commonwealth to ignore its mandate with impunity in two successive bargaining contracts following the promulgation of Section 5955, and then to assert it as a bar to a claim for recovery under the CBA would be manifestly unfair. The demoralizing effect of such a result on the relationship between employer and employee in the public sector is readily apparent. We are, therefore, compelled to conclude that the inclusion of these benefits in the CBAs following the passage of Section 5955 constituted an express waiver of any bar Section 5955 may otherwise have posed . . . .488 Pa. at 26, 410 A.2d at 809.