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US expert backs government initiatives on mediation in the workplace.

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The Hon Peter Reith, MP

Minister for Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business

Leader of the House of Representatives





29 June 1999






Professor Arnold Zack, Co-Chair of the National Taskforce on Alternative Dispute Resolution in Employment and former President of the National Academy of Arbitrators in the US, has backed Government plans to give legislative recognition to the provision o f mediation services in industrial disputes.


Professor Zack today met with the Minister for Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business, Peter Reith, to discuss the Government’s plans to introduce voluntary mediation in industrial disputes as an alternative or supplement to the quasi-legal processes of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission.


“Mediation, which will be available on a purely voluntary basis, will provide a less interventionist and less formal alternative to Commission processes that will be more compatible with the parties taking responsibility for their own workplace relations and having greater choice in how they wish to resolve their disputes” said the Minister.


Professor Zack described the initiative “as a progressive development which should deliver the kind of benefits currently being enjoyed by employers and employees in the United States. That country has long provided for mediation as a workplace dispute resolution mechanism and the process has helped increase co-operation between management and labour and so reduce strikes.” The professor also pointed out that that mediation “offers a means of bringing workplace justice to more people, at lower cost and with greater speed” than conventional processes.


“One of the reasons behind the success of mediation in the United States is that mediators have no authority” Professor Zack explained. “They are there to get the parties together and because they have no barrow to push, they tend to get at the real issues to a problem. There is no point for either side to posture or make ambit claims to a mediator.”


The Government released a discussion paper, Approaches to dispute resolution: a role for mediation? in August 1998. It announced plans to introduce mediation in its workplace relations pre-election policy platform, More Jobs Better Pay . These proposals were recently outlined further in the Minister’s More Jobs Better Pay: Implementation Discussion Paper which was released for public comment on 6 May 1999, and has been the subject of a series of meetings with employer and union representatives.


For further information contact: Ian Hanke on 0419 484 095



lk  1999-06-30  11:04