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BAC: Arbitration and Conciliation Services
"Interest arbitration" is the third and final step in the statutory dispute resolution mechanism and follows mediation and fact finding. The statute provides that if the recommendations of the fact-finding panel do not result in the parties settling on a collective bargaining agreement within a specified period, the parties may obtain arbitration services from the Board of Arbitration and Conciliation (the BAC) by submitting a joint request. If the parties do not elect to use the BAC, each party selects one arbitrator, and these two arbitrators then jointly select a neutral chair. If they can not agree on a chair, the services of the American Arbitration Association are used to select the neutral chair of the arbitration panel. The statute authorizes the parties to agree on one of the public chairs to hear their case as a single arbitrator, but almost all cases are heard by a 3-member panel.
The process used by the BAC in interest arbitration starts with conciliation. Prior to convening the formal evidentiary hearing on a case, the panel attempts to conciliate a settlement between the parties. During the conciliation phase, each party meets with its "representative" on the panel and they discuss the relative strengths and weaknesses of their case and their basic needs in the dispute. The two partisan members then consult with each other to ascertain whether settlement is possible and, if so, engage in mediation. The neutral chair plays a very limited role during the conciliation phase, just introducing the mechanics of the process while remaining insulated from the facts and details being discussed. If requested to do so, the neutral chair will give views on such legal matters as which party bears the burden of proof or what type of evidence would normally be required to meet that burden. This will help the parties analyze the risks and rewards underlying any settlement discussion. If the conciliation results in settlement, the chair may assist the parties to draft a stipulation of settlement and dismissal. If the conciliation fails to achieve settlement, the arbitration hearing can proceed because the chair has no idea of what proposals for conciliation were made or rejected or why. If the arbitration panel is not from the BAC, there may be less emphasis on attempting to conciliate a settlement.
The Interest Arbitration Hearing
The interest arbitration process begins with the convening of the formal evidentiary hearing. The chair presides with consultation by the partisan members. Evidence is produced through direct and cross examinations, documents, or other physical evidence. The panel receives oral argument or written submissions and then meets to deliberate the merits of the case.
The Interest Arbitration Decision
The chair drafts the opinion of the panel. Any member wishing to do so may submit an opinion dissenting in whole or in part. Normally, the decision is issued within 30 days of the close of argument.
The decision of the arbitrators is advisory only on financial matters, that is, controversies over salaries, pensions and insurance. If the parties are unable to agree on these issues within 10 days of the arbitrators' findings and recommendations, either party may make the arbitrators' recommendations public. With respect to the non-financial matters submitted to arbitration, the arbitrators' decision is binding on the parties, and the parties are required to incorporate that decision into their written contract.
The Board of Arbitration and Conciliation is also available to assist parties in resolving disputes regarding contract interpretation ("grievance arbitration") in addition to negotiation disputes ("interest arbitration") described above. Typically, the grievance arbitration process is specified in the collective bargaining agreement.
Go to the forms and petitions page for the form to request arbitration.