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  • Ed

Uniformed not uninformed mediation

I’ve been thinking a lot about the uniforms we wear whether actual or simply dress code in different situations, how we put on a different “uniform” depending on where we are and with whom we are dealing. My mother (the Revd J) always tells me how people react differently to her when she has her dog collar on as they recognise the “uniform” of a vicar, likewise when I’m in court or advising on legal matters I tend to wear suit and tie as a mark of respect for the client but mainly because that is what is expected.

When I mediate I wear different clothing (think more Alan Partidge and less Rumpole) as I don’t want the suit to be a barrier between me and the clients I need them to feel they can approach me and be as open with me as possible to get to the heart of their issue.

In some respects it may make no difference to the client what I wear, the skills I bring to a mediation are the same, but so much of language is unconscious that how the client feels able to relate to me is as important as what they feel able to say to me.

What uniform/masks do paraprofessionals wear I wonder in this story of teaching paraprofessionals in Schenectady schools? What you don’t immediately recognise the term? Nor did I (despite having twice been a para-legal). Teaching paraprofessionals are those hall monitors and teaching assistants (TAs) as we would say.

Well now the Schenectady Federation of Teachers has requested formal mediation in respect of the paraprofessionals being paid a living wage (rather than state minimum).

President of the Schenectady Federation of Teachers Juliet Benaquisto said “For this union, they are people that are really not making a good living wage.”

The chair of the union’s paraprofessionals unit Patty Zentko said it was disheartening that some of the students the paraprofessionals were working with were on a better wage at fast food chains than they were.

Larry Spring Schenectady Superintendent rebutted that “We can manipulate those three areas [financial compensation, health benefits and management control] in lots of ways, but we aren’t very amendable to let’s just jack up one and not look at any of the others…Instead of let’s really crank up their salary for a position that has limited job requirements, limited responsibility, let’s increase your training…let’s move you into a position that earns more…I’ve got an issue with this notion that an entry-level position with these qualifications and these responsibilities should be funded at this level on the basis that people need these kinds of funds to live.” Generous old soul isn’t he?

Zentko’s response? “The part that hurts the most is the fact that I don’t believe the district realizes and recognizes half of what we do…If you asked most teachers, I’m sure they would say (paraprofessionals) are integral, they are an integral part of what I do… We are a very important cog in the machine.”

In other uniformed news the criminal charges against a Toledo IRS guard (Seth Eklund) who held an off duty but still uniformed sheriff (Alan Gaston) at gunpoint are being sent to mediation.

It all came about when the sheriff refused to hand over his own weapon and Seth, following the letter of the law, tried to restrain Alan. Seth has counter-sued alleging discrimination based on race for the treatment he was subjected to by the sheriff.

Nurses now and the nurses at the Good Samaritan Regional Centre in Corvallis (apparently a town in Oregon and not a vampire from a Kate Beckinsale movie) are going to mediate on their own terms and conditions.

They’ve been working without contract since June, which speaks volumes for their dedication, when the previous talk broke down. Now a federal mediator has been brought in to settle the dispute and get the hardworking nurses of Benton County back on contract on terms they can accept.

Judges wear some interesting uniforms, although mainly these days they tend to be in suit and tie and less in black gowns with red or purple sashes (as they did in my training days) and it’s from one of their number we hear next.

Circuit Court Judge Keenan Johnson (no relation) stated at the Legal Aid Board’s annual conference that mediation kept disputes out of the court system.

His speech given at Blackhall Place this week affirmed his belief that mediated settlements are likely to have a longer term benefit than those ordered by the courts. Resolutions to which parties come without being forced are more readily accepted, that doesn’t mean a mediated settlement will always last forever but it has a better chance than a court order of being followed as both parties “buy in”. He highlighted that too many cases end up within the court system effectively being tried for right vs wrong which is avoided in mediation.

As we’ve said before choose to mediate early and resolve your issues effectively, timeously, and with less stress and costs than going to your solicitor.

By having a deep and meaningful discussions with parties the mediator elicits what the true “red-lines” are and where there is the potential for compromise, it is with this structured period of reflection that the parties are then able to reach an accord.

The flexible nature of mediation and the possible outcomes make it an ideal way to resolve disputes in an ever changing world and the open nature of discussions in mediation whilst remaining confidential allows all sides to engage fully in the process and understand the needs of all involved allowing parties to reach a conclusion which both sides can live with and move on.

There are so many situations which could have been resolved by early intervention of mediation it continues to surprise me the lengths the public (and some lawyers) will go to avoid referral.

Whether you need a mediator to help out with a construction matter in the Northwest, or council’s plans in Cheshire, a civil mediator in London, a commercial mediator in Manchester, a dispute resolution for your family in Liverpool, a neighbourhood mediation in Stockport, then our mediators at Northwest Mediation can help.

Mediation is cheaper, quicker and less stressful than running any case to court, it can help with any dispute whether it's an employment issue or the sale at an under value of a property, a fight with a neighbour, family issues, commercial disputes, civil mediation or inheritance, wills and probate arguments contact Northwest Mediation on 07931318347 or via email at

neighbour mediation; commercial dispute resolution; civil mediation; commercial dispute; corporate dispute; commercial mediator; family mediation; inheritance wills probate mediation; property mediator; civil mediator; civil litigation; fast track mediation; injury mediation

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