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Public sector mediation.

Arnold Zack, a well-known arbitrator, turns his attention to public sector mediation in this slim, 200-page volume. He says the volume is "largely a reflection of my own experience as an independent mediator." Aimed at "those who are newly thrust into the mediation arena," Zack's book will assist them in understanding and anticipating the process.

The volume's initial three chapters introduce the reader to the basics of and the need for mediation, and list the necessary qualifications for mediators. Chapters dealing with preparation for mediation, the first session, separate meetings with the parties involved, and issue handling constitute the core of the book. Several chapters focus on the settlement itself and on the mediator and his or her problems. Career opportunities for mediators are also discussed. The Code of Professional Conduct for Labor Mediators, promulgated by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, is available in the appendix.

Public sector issues and controversies are frequently cited, but Zack discusses mediation in both the private and public sectors. Thus, the author has presented beginning readers with a well-written guide to the mediation process. In fact, mediators who practice exclusively in the private sector will be surprised to learn that in both sectors the process is quite similar.

Zack is at his best in describing how he handles problems that arise. His suggested solution is quite simple. When the parties meet with Zack with hundreds of unresolved issues, he points out that airing all the controversies will take weeks, perhaps months. He requests the parties to reduce the number of unresolved issues to a manageable number, and awaits their return. There are often two possible approaches to a particular problem, and Zack presents the alternatives and arguments for each. The mediation agenda is a good example. Some mediators prefer to begin with little issues, believing that resolving some differences will be easily achieved and result in other agreements. Conversely, other mediators stress the importance of dealing with a key issue before there will be general agreement by the parties.

This reviewer was particularly impressed with Zack's analysis of the two negotiating teams and their "typical" attitudes. In many ways, his discussion resembles traditional collective bargaining literature. Just as the parties try to assess "opportunities" for settlement and attempt to convert some of their counterparts, the mediator tries to identify allies in both camps who would champion settlements. The mediator's task is of course simpler because he wants to achieve a settlement rather than gain a particular advantage. Equally intriguing was the discussion on meetings with the delegation's spokespersons. Although they rarely control the delegation, a mediator "may be able to utilize the spokesperson to accelerate the process and to prevent false starts and tactical errors." Particularly useful was the suggestion that some individuals might become the "mediator's mediator."

Readers may find some gaps in this book. I suspect that many will be disappointed that the author has not discussed the mediator's role during a strike. While stoppages are legal in only a few jurisdictions, they occur even in units in which they are illegal. A discussion of the mediator's role would certainly aid those newly exposed to mediation. This reviewer was disappointed that Zack did not discuss a problem in negotiation which has often plagued the public sector. In some jurisdictions, the absence of a strike deadline has resulted in a lack of pressure to force settlements. As a result, negotiations tend to "drag on," and mediators need to find some way to encourage settlements.

A volume aimed at neophytes cannot touch on all problems. The uninitiated, however, will certainly learn a good deal from the volume. More sophisticated readers may also benefit it they read selectively about the difficulties that face them.
COPYRIGHT 1985 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
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Copyright 1985 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Krislov, Joseph
Publication:Monthly Labor Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Oct 1, 1985
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