Effective January 2012, when a local public agency has reached an impasse during collective bargaining with representatives of a recognized employee organization, the employee organization is able to require the bargaining impasse to be submitted to a "fact finding" panel. Specifically, if a mediator is unable to effect settlement within 30 days of appointment, the employee organization may request that the differences be submitted to a tri-party fact finding panel consisting of one representative from each of the sides and a chairperson selected by the Public Employment Relations Board ("PERB").
The fact finding panel is charged with making written findings of fact and advisory recommendations covering unresolved issues during negotiations. The panel is empowered to conduct investigations, hold hearings and take any steps it deems appropriate to resolve the bargaining impasse, including the issuance of subpoenas requiring witness testimony and the production of evidence.
If the impasse is not settled by the panel within 30 days after appointment, they must submit any findings of fact and recommended terms of settlement to the parties. The public agency is required to make these findings and recommendations publicly available within 10 days of receiving them. After applicable mediation and fact finding procedures have been exhausted, but no earlier than 10 days after the issuance of the panel's written findings and recommendations, a public agency may implement its last, best and final offer. Prior to doing so the agency must hold a public hearing regarding the impasse.
Agency experience with the 2012 State law has revealed that the new fact finding/impasse tends to be a costly solution to negotiation stalemates.