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The Troubles with Mediation

We’re in America again for the start of this week’s blog.

Mediators from Pennsylvania’s state labour (labor) board have been requested to assist in reaching an agreement in an ongoing dispute between the state’s Higher Education System and 14 university faculties.

The spokesman for the state system, Kenn Marshall, was reported to say “We think it's important to do everything we can to move these talks forward…We want an independent third party to look at the proposals and make recommendations."

The mediator team is being brought in as part of a fact finding mission and whatever they find or steer the two parties towards will not be binding. The call for mediators has been described as a “delaying tactic” by the union’s president, Kenneth Mash, as the appointment of mediators prevents the faculties striking until they report.

But Kenn Marshall remained adamant that the mediation would be “the exact opposite of a stalling tactic. It's a tool to help achieve settlement."

The dispute rumbles on with parties meeting again on Tuesday next week.

One of the board (who didn’t vote) expressed that he wasn’t willing to agree to mediation until he was assured that the process was confidential.

Clearly he’s not been reading my blog, one of the key aspects of any mediation is that the talks are confidential that anyone can say, within certain limits, anything they like.

The subject of the mediation appears to be the board’s own inability to reach agreement and there is a history somewhat embarrassing issues for the board who have faced access information requests and open hostility within the board meetings over the last several months.

Dealing with hostility of a far more dangerous kind the BBC this week on Beyond Belief (Radio 4) heard from mediators who were involved in discussions during the troubles.

It’s worth a listen if you want to hear from mediators who were on the front line during those dark times and I take my hat off to those involved on all sides.

If you would like to know how mediation can assist your board, or want to mediate on an issue with employees or any other dispute you have where you want to deal with matters in a professional, confidential and cost effective manner call Ed Johnson on 07931318347 or via email at

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