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Tip Tuesday: Methods for Resolving an Impasse in Negotiations

June 30, 2020

If an impasse is reached in negotiations, several scenarios may be pursued. Strikes are one mechanism unions may use for dealing with an impasse, however, there are other, more productive methods for resolving impasses:

The main tools/procedures available for resolving an impasse include:

  • Mediation: A mediator, a neutral third party is employed to help reach an agreement by keeping the parties talking and encouraging progress toward common ground.  Mediators can propose “mediator settlements” to resolve disputes and help each party save face.
  • Fact-Finding: A fact-finder, a neutral third party is used to help both parties reach an agreement. The fact-finder holds a non-binding hearing, investigates the disputed issues, and submits a set of non-binding recommendations for settlement.
  • Conventional Arbitration: This is a type of interest arbitration in which the arbitrator may select the position taken by either labor or management, or issue some sort of compromise decision.
  • Final Offer Arbitration: Also a type of interest arbitration, in final offer arbitration (sometimes called “baseball arbitration”) the arbitrator must choose one party’s offer. Variations of final offer arbitration may require an arbitrator to select the entire package or to select one or the other party’s offers on each specific issue.

If the two parties can reach an agreement on all contract provisions, the next task is to conclude the agreement and prepare for the contract administration phase. Some states, however, provide certain groups of employees with the right to binding arbitration to resolve an impasse in negotiations. Such cases require extensive preparation and research by both management and the union.