FAQ on Impasse, Mediation, and Fact-Finding
We know you have many questions about our negotiations, impasse, and the fact-finding process. Read below to learn more:
What does impasse mean?
Impasse means that two parties were unable to reach agreement through the negotiations process.
What is mediation?
Once a party declares impasse, the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) will assign a mediator or mediation team to try and help the parties come to an agreement. If no agreement is reached, the mediator will certify impasse and the issue will move to fact-finding.
How does fact-finding work?
If mediation does not result in agreement, an impartial three-person fact finding panel will be convened to review the arguments and proposals from both sides and issue a set of non-binding recommendations for an agreement. In this case, the District and the union would each appoint one member to the fact-finding panel. Then, they mutually agree on a neutral, independent fact-finding panel chairperson from a list of qualified labor relations professionals supplied by the state, or if the parties cannot agree then a neutral chairperson will be assigned.
What is involved in the fact-finding hearing?
The fact-finding panel schedules and holds private hearings where both sides will present their last, best and final offers, along with data and arguments. The panel members meet in private to evaluate the positions and the data. Within 30 days of the hearing, the panel is required to issue a report that contains findings of fact and non-binding recommendations. Before the report is made public, the parties have one more chance to meet in an attempt to reach a tentative agreement. If agreement is not reached, the union leadership and the District’s Board of Education vote to accept or reject the fact-finder’s report. By statute, this process must occur within 10 days from the date the report is made public.
Is the fact-finder’s recommendation binding on the parties?
The fact finder’s report is advisory only. In fact-finding, the panel chairperson can make suggestions that are compromises.
Can negotiations continue while fact-finding is underway?
The fact-finding process usually involves a series of back-and-forth discussions or mediation sessions involving the fact-finding panel chair and both bargaining teams after the hearing is finished. In some cases, once the parties have heard all of the facts and have some indication of the fact-finders’ position, an agreement can be reached and the process ends. In other cases, the parties might agree to resume mediation while the fact-finder’s report is pending. Sometimes an agreement can be reached prior to the report being issued. The state collective bargaining law requires that once the fact-finding report is issued, the parties must meet at least one more time to see if they can reach a negotiated settlement based on the report.