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January 10, 2011

Determining the issue in arbitration

Determining the issue in arbitration
Matter of the Schenectady Federation of Teachers, Jeffrey M. Selchick, Esq., Arbitrator

In most instances, the parties are able to agree on the issue to be resolved by the arbitrator among themselves or with the assistance of the arbitrator. This was not the case in the Matter of the Arbitration between the Schenectady Federation of Teachers and the Schenectady City School District. Here the parties simply could not agree on the issue to be decided by Arbitrator Jeffrey M. Selchick.

Did this mean that the matter could not be submitted to the arbitrator?

No, said Selchick, referring to How Arbitration Works by Elkouri and Elkouri, 5th Edition.

Quoting from the text, Selchick said that:

Where the parties cannot agree upon an issue, the arbitrator may arrive at a precise statement of the issue or issues after studying the entire record of the case, including if available, such matters as the original grievance statement and the grievance procedure minutes, the demand for arbitration and any reply of the other party, correspondence of the parties, the transcript of the hearing [or arbitrator’s notes], the parties’ exhibits, and the parties’ briefs.

The collective bargaining agreement provision at issue concerned a requirement that teachers attend meetings, including home school activities -- activities intended to improve students’ achievement levels.

The Federation alleged the District had violated the contract when it gave teachers a schedule setting out the pattern applicable to home school activities under the agreement that required them to perform such activities on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

The issue as formulated by the Federation essentially asked if there was a contractual meeting of the minds. The District, on the other hand, simply assumed that there was such a meeting of the minds and asked the arbitrator to determine if the agreement gave it exclusive authority to schedule home school activities.

Selchick, after reviewing the record, concluded that there was a meeting of the mind and decided that the issue to be resolved was:

Did the District violate ... the Agreement when it established the schedule for home school activities ...?

After considering the contract language, Selchick ruled that the provision was clear -- the District had the right to establish a schedule for all meetings, which includes home school activities ... and, in addition, could require that teachers maintain a professional log recording the activities the teacher performed on a scheduled home school date.

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