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UFT contract dispute moves to fact-finding

The New York State Public Employment Relations Board on Oct. 3 appointed a three-member fact-finding panel to take testimony, hold hearings and issue a report and recommendations in an effort to resolve the contract dispute between the Department of Education and the UFT. The UFT contract expired on Oct. 31, 2009.

“For nearly three years we have been unable to reach a new contract with the Department of Education,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew. “In the past, a review of the issues by independent fact-finders appointed by the state has helped break this kind of deadlock, and it is our hope that PERB’s intervention this time will help lead to an agreement.”

The fact-finders, all labor arbitrators, are Martin F. Scheinman, Mark Grossman and Howard Edelman. Scheinman was named chairperson of the panel.

PERB said that it appointed the fact-finders “for the purpose of inquiring into the causes and circumstances of the dispute” after determining that an impasse existed in the negotiations.

The panel has the power to subpoena witnesses, documents and other material; and to administer oaths and take testimony. After hearings, the panel will release “findings of fact and recommendations for resolution of the dispute.” The recommendations, while not binding, are expected to help provide a framework for a final settlement.

The UFT’s 300-member negotiating committee voted to go to fact-finding on June 11.

In recent history, the recommendations of fact-finding panels have helped the UFT and the DOE reach agreements to replace expired contracts.

Potential names of panelists were provided by the DOE, the UFT and PERB. Both the DOE and the UFT were permitted to strike a number of potential appointees, and PERB named the panel based on how the DOE and the UFT ranked the remaining candidates.

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