New Yorkers who are public employees and union members and have experienced the difficulty with labor relations will inevitably understand that not all negotiations to improve work conditions and benefits will go as smoothly as they would like. Difficulty is frequently part of the process and if the sides cannot come to an agreement, the office of collective bargaining (OCB) will step in with assistance. One way in which they assist is with impasse panels. Understanding the basics of what impasse panels do is key when a union is about to be part of that process with the employer. As always, legal help is critical for the union to be adequately prepared and protected.
The OCB has impasse panel members. These individuals are approved by a majority on the collective bargaining board. There will be a city member and labor member. When the public employer and a union have done everything possible to come to an agreement after collective bargaining negotiations and the proper conditions are in place to use an impasse panel, then the panel will be appointed. There does not need to have been mediation for this to take place. Both parties are also allowed to request there be an impasse panel. The parties will be given a list of candidates and their preferences will be submitted. The parties can also name a consultant to the impasse panel.
The impasse panel can have hearings, mediate disputes, compel witnesses to attend, review information and move forward with any action it deems required to come to a resolution. When the impasse panel is unable to resolve the impasse in a time-period that is considered reasonable, there will be a written report as to its findings, conclusions and how to potentially come to a settlement and end the impasse. The report is limited to collective bargaining issues. Salary will not be part of the purview of the panel unless there is agreement from the mayor. The parties will receive the report. The parties can reject or accept the recommendations.
When there is an ongoing negotiation over labor relations, there is a significant chance that it will not result in a settlement and intervention is necessary on the part of the OCB. An impasse panel is part of that. Some of what impasse panels do is detailed above. There is much more that should be understood about impasse panels. When a union is dealing with any labor law issue and they cannot resolve it, an impasse panel is just one alternative. Having legal advice from a law firm that specializes in labor law and collective bargaining is vital to a successful negotiation.