Labor-Management Mediation - Dispute Resolution Journal - Vol. 58, No. 4
The author is a full-time staff mediator for the California State Mediation and Conciliation Service. Over the past five years he has mediated settlement agreements in over 100 public employment jurisdictions.
Originally from Dispute Resolution Journal
This article takes you through the steps of a labor-management mediation from the initial contact with the parties to the tentative agreement. Based on the author’s experience as well as the experiences of other mediators, this article focuses on common strategies and tactics used by mediators to obtain a successful outcome.
When management and union fail to reach an agreement during contract negotiations, they often call in a mediator.1 At this juncture, the parties have generally been bargaining for weeks or even months. One or both sides believe that they cannot make further progress without the assistance of a third-party neutral.
The mediation of labor contract disputes (known as “interest disputes”) is not a science; it’s an art. Each mediator has a unique style, shaped by personality and experience. This article describes some of the techniques and strategies that labor mediators can use to help the parties mediate interest disputes.2 It also touches on the pros and cons of certain bargaining tactics in the mediation setting.
As a general rule, mediators in the labor-management field have had experience as a negotiator for either an employer or a union. They bring to the table an insider’s understanding of the dynamics of collective bargaining. No amount of study or training can substitute for this practical experience.
While mediation of interest disputes has no rule book, it is not simply a constant improvisation. In general, the disputes share many similarities. Certain patterns recur regularly, so mediators can apply similar techniques. Of course, every generalization has exceptions. In this article, I highlight both the norms and the exceptions.