Voluntary interest arbitration as an impasse resolution tool

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1981
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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Abstract

By studying the evolution of :interest arbitration in the private and public sectors, this study was an attempt to examine the rationale for the infrequent use of voluntary binding interest arbitration in Pennsylvania and how it might be made a rwre viable alternative to the strike. Two questions addressed this concern:

  1. Why has voluntary binding arbitration been infrequently used in public education in Pennsylvania while the strike has been the normal resolution tool in interest disputes?

  2. What will make voluntary binding arbitration a more viable alternative to a strike when an impasse arises in the state of Pennsylvania?

A survey instrument addressing these issues was sent to 263 school districts in the Pennsylvania public education system. These school districts were divided into three classifications: non.strikers, strikers, and voluntary binding interest arbitration users. Also surveyed were the Pennsylvania State Education Association's Uniserve Directors (N=51). Each of these groups provided unique information related to the research questions. Within each school district the questionnaire was sent to the chief negotiator for management, the school board chairperson, the superintendent, the chief negotiator for the union, and the local union president.

Members of the management classification were found unwilling to rel:inquish their decision making duties to an arbitrator, a third party neutral. There was a considerable reluctance by management to use voluntary binding interest arbitration. An arbitrator was not only distrusted by management, but also by the union. Management thought they lost financially when utilizing the services of an arbitrator, since they perceived arbitrators' tended to be pro-labor when rendering interest awards.

In order to make voluntary interest arbitration a more viable alternative to the strike, several areas of agreement emerged. If the settlement fonna.t was on an issue-by-issue basis then interest arbitration would probably be used more frequently. If mediation arbitration was used with an issue-by-issue settlement format then interest arbitration could be an even more viable alternative. Most groups surveyed argued voluntary binding interest arbitration would be utilized more if arbitrators were formally trained in public sector interest arbitration. In addition, 100st groups believed that voluntary binding interest arbitration would be used more if there was an appeals process through the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board if either party alleged that the arbitrator's award was capricious.

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