Clapp, Jayne and Francis. The opinion of the court was delivered by Francis, J.A.D.
The problem presented for determination on this appeal is whether the Law Division was correct in holding that an arbitral issue exists under the collective bargaining agreement entered into between the plaintiff Standard Oil Development Company Employees Union and defendant Esso Research & Engineering Company.
On July 1, 1946 the company (then known as Standard Oil Development Company) and the union entered into an agreement which recognized the union as the exclusive representative of certain of the employees and which undertook generally to regulate wages, hours and other conditions of employment.
The contract and its amendments to March 20, 1953 established certain job classifications. Among them were Senior Laboratory Assistant, and Senior Operator, Operator and Operator Helper within the Operator group. An affidavit of the company's Director of Labor Relations recites that the work of persons in these categories was connected with research and experiment in the development of products and processes. The operations "required considerable technical knowledge, skill, ingenuity and versatility, and some of the persons in such classifications had demonstrated considerable ability along those lines."
The affidavit further says that in December 1953 the company, being desirous of giving more recognition to such
outstanding ability, proposed to the union that the agreement be amended to create a Technician Group, composed of Technician II, Technician I and Senior Technician, into which would be placed Operator Helper, Operator, Senior Operator and those Senior Laboratory Assistants engaged in work similar to that performed by the Operator group. It further proposed that Senior Operators, Operators and Senior Laboratory Assistants who qualified, be considered "on an individual basis for appointment, at a salary to be fixed on a merit basis, as Senior Technicians * * *."
A concord was reached on the subject and a formal amendment of the 1946 agreement, to be retroactive to December 19, 1953, was executed on March 12, 1954.
A salary schedule was included for the new Technician classifications. Specific wage ranges for the Technician II and I groups were set out but the Senior Technician specification for salary was simply "merit."
Reference to certain other portions of the revised contract is necessary. Section 1 of Article III as amended, hereinafter called the "Promotions Clause," reads as follows:
"Section 1 -- Promotions.
A. Promotions will be made on the basis of the ability of an employee to best meet all the requirements of the job classification. The determination of such ability shall be made by the Company. In its determination of ability, consideration shall be given by the Company to experience as reflected by total credited service on the following basis:
2) b) For promotion from one classification within the Technician Group into a higher classification within such group, longest total credited service in the next lower classification in the division shall be determining, but if this is equal, longest total credited service with the Company shall be determining, but if this is equal, longest total credited service with Standard Oil Company (N.J.) and its affiliates and subsidiaries shall be determining. * * *." (Emphasis added.)
Article IV of the original contract provides:
"Sec. 1 -- Job Classifications.
A. The Company has established job classifications for all jobs covered by this agreement. Such classifications are shown on
Exhibit II. [Hereinafter referred to as the "Job Classification Schedule."]
B. Promotions from lower to higher classifications will be made by the Company as vacancies or openings occur and in accordance with provisions of Article III herein above." [The "Promotions Clause."]
The Job Classification Schedule was amended by the addition of a new subsection 3 D entitled "Technician Classifications." It is located at the very end of the long amendatory agreement. This subsection set out in separate paragraphs a definition of the duties of Technician II, Technician I and Senior Technician, and the requirements for ...