1. Services Provided
Collective bargaining disputes involving municipalities and their police officers and fire fighters (police and fire) are subject to the Joint Labor Management Committee’s procedures. It is the interest mediation process for police and fire. While parties use the same DLR mediators in an attempt to break successor collective bargaining impasse, the JLMC has its own procedures outlined in Chapter 589 of the Acts of 1987 and the Rules enacted pursuant to the statute. One major difference in JLMC cases is that parties unable to break an impasse will be ordered to arbitration.
2. Initiating a Case
a. Filing the Petition
When parties in municipal police or fire negotiations believe that they have reached an impasse in negotiating a collective bargaining agreement and think mediation is warranted, either or both parties jointly may file a petition requesting that the JLMC intervene and assist. One or both of the parties must believe that the process of bargaining has been exhausted in order to file a petition. The JLMC Petition form is available on the DLR website. (www.mass.gov./lwd/labor-relations/).
b. DLR/JLMC Initial Steps – Scheduling the Initial Investigation/Mediation
After the DLR/JLMC receives a Petition, it dockets it and assigns a case number and mediator. The DLR/JLMC then sends the parties a letter informing them of the mediator assignment and the procedure to schedule the initial investigation/mediation. The parties are required to confer and agree to three proposed dates for the initial investigation/mediation that fall within 45 days of the date of the docketing notice. The Petitioner is required to notify the DLR of those dates within fourteen days of the date of the docketing notice. If the petition is filed jointly, either party may notify the DLR/JLMC of the three dates agreed upon by the parties. If after reasonable attempts to secure dates, the Petitioner notifies the DLR/JLMC that the parties are unable to agree on a date to schedule the initial investigation/mediation, the DLR/JLMC will schedule the initial investigation/mediation and notify the parties of same. If the Petitioner fails to submit dates or submit a written statement explaining why it has been unable to submit mutually agreed upon dates, the Petition will be dismissed, absent extraordinary circumstances.
The mediator assigned to the case will make every effort to schedule the initial investigating/mediation on one of the days agreed upon by the parties.
3. First Meeting (Investigation and Certifying the Issues)
The mediator meets with both parties in an attempt to resolve the outstanding issues or to assist the parties in narrowing the issues separating the parties. One of the important roles for the mediator is to identify the issues that the parties have bargained about and over which they are at impasse. This is known as certifying the issues. Parties will often raise different issues during the mediation process, but the JLMC holds the parties to these identified issues as the JLMC process progresses.
If the parties cannot resolve the dispute through the mediator or through continued negotiations on their own, the mediator requests that the JLMC take jurisdiction of the dispute. The mediator makes this recommendation at a JLMC meeting. The JLMC generally meets twice a month and posts the cases it expects to discuss on the DLR and JLMC websites in accordance with the Open Meeting Law.
If the JLMC votes to take jurisdiction, it then assigns two volunteer Committee members to assist the mediators and the parties -- one member from the labor volunteers (fire volunteers for fire and police volunteers for police) and one management representative.
The DLR notifies the parties of the JLMC’s jurisdiction decision.
The mediator assigned to the case continues to work with the parties in trying to resolve the impasse. The mediator may choose to involve the committee level volunteers and schedule Committee Level Mediation (CLM), using the volunteers experience to aid the parties as they mediate the impasse.
5. The 3(a) Process
a. Vote to 3(a)
If CLM mediation fails and the parties are unable to resolve the dispute on their own, the JLMC votes on whether to schedule a 3(a) hearing (named after the section of the law that describes this process). The JLMC votes to hold a 3(a) hearing if it finds that the issues in negotiations have remained unresolved for an unreasonable period of time, resulting in the apparent exhaustion of the collective bargaining process.
The JLMC vote on whether to order a 3(a) hearing is posted in the same manner as the jurisdiction votes.
The DLR notifies the parties of the JLMC’s decision on whether to order a 3(a) hearing.
b. The Purpose of the 3(a) Hearing
The purpose of the 3(a) Hearing is to allow the JLMC to identify the following:
- The issues that remain in dispute;
- The current positions of the parties;
- The views of the parties as to how the dispute should be resolved; and
- The preferences of the parties as to the mechanism to be followed in order to reach a final agreement. (Generally the parties choose issue-by-issue arbitration by a tripartite panel).
c. Parties’ Pre-Hearing Submission
The parties must submit the issues they intend to present at the 3(a) hearing to the mediator assigned to the case at least 48 business hours prior to the scheduled 3(a) hearing. These lists must be submitted electronically. Upon receipt, the mediator forwards the issues to the other party, 24 business hours in advance of the 3(a) hearing. The JLMC limits the parties from presenting issues to the 3(a) panel that were not certified issues.
d. The 3(a) Hearing
A subcommittee of the JLMC, also called the 3(a) panel, presides over the 3(a) hearing. The JLMC chair is generally the chair of the 3(a) panel and the other two members of the panel are the JLMC volunteers assigned to the case.
The parties make their presentation to the 3(a) panel, which then reports and makes a recommendation to the full committee at the next regularly scheduled JLMC case meeting.
e. After the 3(a) Hearing
If the committee finds that there is an apparent exhaustion of the processes of collective bargaining which constitutes a potential threat to public welfare, it votes to move the case forward to be resolved. In most cases, this means interest arbitration. The format most commonly invoked is the tripartite panel, though there are instances when the parties chose to have a single arbitrator.
The Chair of the interest arbitration panel is a neutral arbitrator chosen by the parties from a random lists that the JLMC sends out. The other two members of the panel are the JLMC volunteers assigned to the case.
The JLMC tells the arbitration panel what issues they are authorized to decide, which normally consists of wages, duration of the contract, and up to 5 separate issues for each party.
6. Interest Arbitration
Sometimes cases settle after the 3(a) Hearing but prior to interest arbitration. However, if the matter does not settle, the parties appear before the arbitration panel and present evidence through witnesses and/or exhibits. The neutral arbitrator controls the procedural hearing, such as the date, time and data that is needed, once the case is moved to interest arbitration.
The law creating the JLMC lists what criteria the arbitration panel should consider in reaching a decision. The basic questions are:
- What can the employer afford to pay given the demographics?
- What does the employer pay other employees, especially police and fire, both historically and present?
- How do communities demographically comparable to this community pay?
The parties generally submit post-hearing briefs about a month after the arbitration hearing and the arbitration panel generally issues its decision about a month after that.
7. After the Interest Arbitration Award is issued
The arbitration panel’s decision is binding upon the union and the executive branch of the employer. However, in order for the contract to be funded, it is binding only if and when the legislative branch of the government votes to appropriate such funding. The JLMC statute requires the executive branch of the municipality and the exclusive representative of the employees to support the award in the same manner as it would any other decision agreed to by the parties.
Most awards are funded by the legislative branch, but if they are not, the decision is no longer binding and the parties are sent back to the table. The JLMC may get involved once again at that point.
8. Case Closed by JLMC
A JLMC case is closed once an agreement in dispute has been funded. If the matter settles prior to arbitration, the JLMC tracks the tentative agreement through ratification and then funding. If an arbitration award is issued, the case is closed once the legislative branch has funded the decision.