By Tracy Jones
In an attempt to bring the North East Education Association teachers’ union and North East School District to a contract agreement, the NEEA negotiations team filed a request last Wednesday for a fact-finding hearing with the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board (PLRB).
NEEA President John Beaumont said, “Fact-finding is one of several avenues to resolution available under Act 88 of 1992, the legislation that governs all negotiations between PA school districts and their organized employees. Other avenues include utilizing a mediator (which we are currently doing) and binding or non-binding arbitration.”
In fact-finding, each party presents its proposals with supporting information. Once the PLRB appoints a fact-finder from the PA Bureau of Mediation, the fact-finder will have 40 days in which to submit findings of fact and recommendations.
Beaumont said after the fact-finder’s report is received, the parties have 10 days to notify the PLRB of whether they accept or reject the report and recommendations. If both parties accept, negotiations are concluded and the items in the report become part of the new contract.
If either party rejects the report, the report is then publicized during an additional 10-day reconsideration period. At the end of this second 10-day period, the parties must inform the PLRB of whether their decision has changed.
Neither employer lockouts nor employee strikes are permitted during the fact-finding process.
“At this point in negotiations, the NEEA negotiations team believes that the fact-finding process may yield a resolution to the current contract talks,” said Beaumont. “Though fact-finding reports do not always produce a resolution, they can often form the basis for a reasonable compromise between the two parties.”