Does a County Have Right to Contract Work and Services for Its Prisons to a Private Corporation ?

In Delaware County Prison Employees Independent Union v. Delaware County, 681 A.2d 843 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1996), reversed on other grounds, 552 Pa. 184, 713 A.2d 1135 (1998), Delaware County informed the bargaining representative of its prison guard employees that it intended to lay off all of its correctional officers and contract the work to a private corporation. The union filed a grievance under the existing collective bargaining agreement and charges of unfair labor practices against the county. Arbitration proceedings under the collective bargaining agreement culminated in a decision by an arbitrator that the county's prison privatization efforts violated the agreement. The court of common pleas granted the county's petition to vacate the arbitrator's award, finding that it did not draw its essence from the terms of the agreement, which expressly reserved in the county the right to contract work and services. On appeal to this Court, the county argued, inter alia, that the decision to privatize the prison was part of "the public employer's inherent right to make fundamental political decisions regarding the level of services to be provided to the public" and, accordingly, binding interest arbitration was not required under Section 805 of Act 195. Id. at 850.