The petition is a request by one party, or both, for assistance in a contract dispute involving municipal fire /police. Either party alone is authorized to seek the assistance of the JLMC's procedures, or the petition may be filed jointly. The petition provides information regarding the parties, representation, expiration date of contract, number of employees in the Unit, brief details of the current negotiation status, and pending unfair labor practices.
Upon receipt of a petition for JLMC assistance senior staff representatives assign a field investigator to each case. When the Committee exercises jurisdiction in a case, the respective chairs (management, police or firefighter) assign pairs of management and labor committee members. Together with senior staff and field investigators, committee members form a team that utilize various forms of mediation or recommend to the committee other various dispute resolution techniques for the specific case at the particular juncture in the dispute.
The committee's tripartite structure, combining labor, management, and neutral members, has been a key element in its success.
The 3(a) hearing is a mechanism to resolve disputes that have proven difficult to settle for a long period. Section 3(a) of the statute states that in cases that "have remained unresolved for an unreasonable period of time resulting in the apparent exhaustion of the process of collective bargaining" and that "constitute a potential threat to public welfare", the Committee may invoke a specified form of limited arbitration, extend mediation, direct the parties to fact-finding or mediation/arbitration.
If the parties are directed to arbitration and a decision (award) is issued, the award is binding upon the executive arm of the public employer and upon the employee organization, subject to the approval of funding request by the municipal legislative body. The limited award is not binding on the legislative body that appropriates the funds.
Under this procedure, both management and labor, in cases before the JLMC, agree to use the process outlined in Section 3(a) and together define a specific closure mechanism process. Thus bypassing the 3(a) formal hearing.
THE COMMITTEE'S FLEXIBLE STRUCTURE, THE DEDICATION OF ITS LABOR AND MANAGEMENT MEMBERS AND STAFF, AND THE RELATION OF THE COMMITTEE MEMBERS TO THE PARTIES PLAY AN ACTIVE ROLE IN THE COORDINATED EFFORT TO IMPROVE MASSACHUSETTS PUBLIC SECTOR LABOR RELATIONS IN THE FIREFIGHTER AND POLICE FIELDS