With a Panel Representative
To provide the parties with a final opportunity to resolve the dispute themselves at this late stage of the negotiation process, a Panel-appointed mediator-arbitrator begins by exploring possible areas of agreement. Often, the procedure leads to a settlement because the arbitrator's suggestions during mediation are not apt to be taken lightly. The procedure is normally less formal than grievance arbitration, but may vary depending upon the Panel representative involved and the nature of the issues.
If a voluntary agreement does not occur during the mediation phase, an arbitration hearing then immediately follows. At his or her discretion, the arbitrator may swear witnesses, receive exhibits into evidence, or require the submission of pre- or post-hearing briefs. Regardless of the nature of the hearing, however, the arbitrator ultimately has the authority to render a binding arbitration decision on those issues not resolved during the mediation portion of the procedure. There is no charge for the arbitrator's services.
With a Private Arbitrator (Private "Med-Arb")
The Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute authorizes the parties to voluntarily submit their dispute to a private mediator-arbitrator after the Panel has approved a joint request from the parties to use the procedure. These joint requests are investigated on an expedited basis, and generally approved, unless they involve matters that the Panel reserves to itself, such as issues of first impression for the federal-sector labor-relations community. In other cases not involving joint requests, the Panel may recommend and/or direct the use of private med-arb or arbitration as well. Under either scenario, the parties select the arbitrator who will handle the case and share the arbitrator's fees and other associated expenses. In other respects, the procedure is similar to med-arb with a Panel representative.
The Panel's regulations outline the information that the parties should submit in a joint request for Panel approval of private med-arb. Of particular note, as part of their joint request, the parties are required to submit statements regarding: (1) whether any of the proposals to be presented to the arbitrator contain questions concerning the duty to bargain, and (2) the arbitration procedure to be used or, in the alternative, those provisions of the parties' collective-bargaining agreement that contain this information. Although the Panel does not recommend particular arbitrators, it will, upon request, direct the parties to the Federal Mediation and Concilliation Service for a list of arbitrators.
Expedited Arbitration with a Panel Representative
When a quick resolution is a crucial factor in the circumstances of a case, and the issues are neither too numerous nor overly complex, the Panel may direct an expedited arbitration procedure. A Panel-appointed arbitrator meets with the parties to hear both sides of the dispute and, if a settlement is not reached, will issue a binding decision within 2 workdays of the close of the hearing. Given the short time-frame, the parties are not permitted to file post-hearing briefs, although they may be given permission to submit statements and documentary evidence in advance. These and other details of the proceeding are left to the discretion of the arbitrator. In other respects, the procedure is similar to med-arb with a Panel-appointed arbitrator.
Arbitration with a Panel Representative or Private Arbitrator
This procedure gives the parties the opportunity to present the justifications and demonstrated needs, including documentary evidence, for their positions on the merits directly to the decision-maker. The parties, at the arbitrator's discretion, may have an opportunity to file statements, either before or after the proceeding. As opposed to the other varieties of arbitration listed in this guide, traditional arbitration is normally recommended or directed where the Panel's initial investigation demonstrates that the parties are so entrenched in their positions that additional mediation is highly unlikely to produce any movement. Nevertheless, the parties should not be surprised if the arbitrator spends some time exploring settlement possibilities with them.