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Resolving workplace disputes respectfully

UFT mediation program helps members
New York Teacher

Whether it’s two guidance counselors sharing a tiny office, a tussle over storage space in a filled-to-bursting school or two teachers with very different styles of teaching sharing an integrated co-teaching classroom for the first time, there are many possibilities for conflicts and disagreements among co-workers.

UFT members who find they are going around in circles and not making any progress resolving a workplace dispute can now turn to the UFT Workplace Dispute Mediation program.

“We know how hard it can be in the workplace. Sometimes interacting with your colleagues can make it even more stressful,” said Lila Ezra, the program director.

The new program, which is free of charge, gives co-workers — only UFT members are eligible to take advantage of the services — the opportunity to sit down together in a neutral place with an impartial, trained and licensed clinician to help resolve certain conflicts.

The program has 13 mediators, all of whom are mental health professionals who received training in mediation from the New York Peace Institute. The mediators meet with UFT members in the union’s borough offices or Manhattan headquarters.

The program is voluntary. Both parties have the chance to speak their minds and listen closely in a respectful environment outside the workplace, said UFT School Safety and Health Director David Kazansky, who oversees the program.

The mediator helps guide the conversation and brainstorm positive solutions. The process, said Ezra and Kazansky, can help colleagues communicate in a more honest and productive way, voice their expectations, find common ground and learn to compromise. All decisions arrived at are up to the individuals involved in the dispute.

The UFT program is not for anyone under investigation or facing legal proceedings.

For more information on the program, visit www.uft.org/workplace-mediation. To schedule a mediation session, both parties must separately email mediation@uft.org or call 1-212-598-7767 to speak with someone in the program.

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