What if the public employer and labor organization fail to reach an agreement on a new or successor collective bargaining agreement?

The Law prohibits public employees from striking. It also prohibits public employers from unilaterally changing terms and conditions of employment. The DLR administers procedures for resolving collective bargaining impasses under the public employee collective bargaining law. These procedures comprise mediation, fact-­finding, and interest arbitration. Impasse resolution services for police and firefighters are provided by the DLR through the Joint Labor-Management Committee (JLMC).

How does the mediation process work?

After a reasonable period of negotiation, the parties acting individually or jointly may petition the DLR for an impasse determination and the initiation of mediation. The DLR will investigate whether the parties have negotiated for a reasonable period of time and if an impasse exists.

Once an impasse is found, the DLR appoints a mediator to assist the parties in reaching agreement. In some instances, the parties themselves agree upon a mediator.

Suppose the parties still cannot agree? Will a neutral third party be brought in to make findings of fact?

If, despite the best efforts of the mediator, the impasse continues, the mediator will recommend to the DLR Director that the case be certified to fact-finding.

A fact-finder will generally be selected from a list sent to the parties by the DLR. If the parties cannot agree, the DLR will appoint the fact-finder. The fact-finder's primary responsibility is to preside at fact-finding hearings and issue a written report with recommendations for resolving all issues in dispute. The fact-finder has the authority to mediate the dispute at the request of both parties.

At the conclusion of fact-finding, the fact-finder must submit his or her report to the parties and the DLR. The recommendations contained in the report are advisory and do not bind the parties. If the impasse remains unresolved ten days after the receipt of the findings, the DLR is required to make them public.

If the fact-finding procedure fails to resolve the dispute, what can the parties do?

Normally, if the impasse continues after the publication of the fact-finder's report, the issues in dispute go back to the parties for further mediation. If, after further mediation the parties are still at impasse, either or both parties may request the DLR to certify to the parties that the collective bargaining process, including mediation, fact-finding, or arbitration, if applicable, has been completed. If the DLR determines that the dispute resolution mechanisms provided for in Section 9 of the Law have been exhausted, it will certify to the parties that the collective bargaining process has been completed.

Once an agreement is reached, may the parties specify procedures to be used to settle disputes concerning its interpretation?

Yes. The parties may include in any written agreement a grievance procedure culminating in final and binding arbitration to be invoked in the event of any dispute concerning the interpretation of the agreement. The parties may include in the contract the name of the arbitrator and/or the organization from which they will select an arbitrator. The parties may agree to provide for arbitration through the DLR. The DLR charges a fee for arbitration and grievance mediation services.

If a collective bargaining agreement does not include final and binding grievance arbitration, the DLR may order binding arbitration of any grievance arising under the terms of the agreement upon the request of either party to the agreement.

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