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This series includes all positions that involve providing mediation assistance to labor and management in the settlement or prevention of industrial labor disputes connected with the formulation, revision, termination or renewal of collective-bargaining agreements. The paramount qualification requirement of all positions in this series is ability and skill in applying the techniques of mediation in dealing with the parties to a dispute. The application of these techniques in the settlement of industrial labor disputes needs knowledge of the field of labor-management relations, particularly of collective-bargaining principles, practices, and processes; understanding of economic, industrial, and labor trends, and of current developments and problems in the field of labor relations; and knowledge of applicable labor laws and precedent decisions.

(This series applies only to mediator positions in the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service and in the National Mediation Board.) There are approximately 183 mediators employed in this series.

Federal Government Requirements:         

  • You must be a U.S. citizen to apply
  • The yearly salary for a GS-13 is $89,285 to 116,068 per year

Typical Duties & Occupational Profile:

In the private sector a mediator is also referred to as arbitrators, and conciliators.

Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators facilitate negotiation and dialogue between disputing parties to help resolve conflicts outside of the court system.

Duties

Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators typically do the following:

  • Facilitate communication between disputants to guide parties toward mutual agreement
  • Clarify issues, concerns, needs, and interests of all parties involved
  • Conduct initial meetings with disputants to outline the arbitration process
  • Settle procedural matters such as fees, or determine details such as witness numbers and time requirements
  • Set up appointments for parties to meet for mediation or arbitration
  • Interview claimants, agents, or witnesses to obtain information about disputed issues
  • Prepare settlement agreements for disputants to sign
  • Apply relevant laws, regulations, policies, or precedents to reach conclusions
  • Evaluate information from documents such as claim applications, birth or death certificates, and physician or employer records

Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators help opposing parties settle disputes outside of court. They hold private, confidential hearings, which are less formal than a court trial.

Arbitrators are usually attorneys, business professionals, or retired judges with expertise in a particular field. As impartial third parties, they hear and decide disputes between opposing parties. Arbitrators may work alone or in a panel with other arbitrators. In some cases, arbitrators may decide procedural issues, such as what evidence may be submitted and when hearings will be held.

Arbitration may be required by law for some claims and disputes. When it is not required, the parties in dispute sometimes voluntarily agree to arbitration rather than proceed with litigation or a trial. In some cases, parties may appeal the arbitrator’s decision.

Mediators are neutral parties who help people resolve their disputes. However, unlike arbitrators, they do not render binding decisions. Rather, mediators help facilitate discussion and guide the parties toward a mutually acceptable agreement. If the opposing sides cannot reach a settlement with the mediator’s help, they are free to pursue other options.

Conciliators are similar to mediators. Although their role is to help guide opposing sides to a settlement, they typically meet with the parties separately. The opposing sides must decide in advance if they will be bound by the conciliator’s recommendations.

Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators are usually lawyers or business professionals with expertise in a particular field.

Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators learn their skills through a combination of education, training, and work experience.

Education

Education is one part of becoming an arbitrator, mediator, or conciliator.

Few candidates receive a degree specific to the field of arbitration, mediation, or conflict resolution. Rather, many positions require an educational degree appropriate to the applicant’s field of expertise, and a bachelor’s degree is often sufficient. Many other positions, however, require applicants to have a law degree, a master’s in business administration, or some other advanced degree.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators are usually lawyers, retired judges, or business professionals with expertise in a particular field, such as construction, finance, or insurance. They need to have knowledge of that industry and be able to relate well to people from different cultures and backgrounds.

Training

Mediators typically work under the supervision of an experienced mediator for a certain number of cases before working independently.

Training for arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators is available through independent mediation programs, national and local mediation membership organizations, and postsecondary schools. Training is also available by volunteering at a community mediation center.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

There is no national license for arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators. However, some states require arbitrators and mediators to become certified to work on certain types of cases. Qualifications, standards, and the number of training hours required vary by state or by court. Most states require mediators to complete 20 to 40 hours of training courses to become certified. Some states require additional hours of training in a specialty area.

Some states require licenses appropriate to the applicant’s field of expertise. For example, some courts may require applicants to be licensed attorneys or certified public accountants.

Important Qualities

Critical-thinking skills. Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators must apply rules of law. They must remain neutral and not let their own personal assumptions interfere with the proceedings.

Decision-making skills. Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators must be able to weigh facts, apply the law or rules, and make a decision relatively quickly.

Interpersonal skills. Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators deal with disputing parties and must be able to facilitate discussion in a calm and respectful way.

Listening skills. Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators must pay close attention to what is being said in order for them to evaluate information.

Reading skills. Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators must be able to evaluate and distinguish important facts from large amounts of complex information.

The occupational profile was excerpted from the Occupational Handbook (OOH) published by the Department of Labor.

GS-0241-Mediator (Excerpted from USA Job Announcement)

The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service promotes the development of sound and stable labor management relationships; prevents or minimizes work stoppages by assisting labor and management to settle their disputes through mediation; advocates collective bargaining, mediation and voluntary arbitration as the preferred process for settling issues between employers and representatives of employees; develops the art, science and practice of conflict resolution; assists government agencies in the effective use of alternative dispute resolution through support, training, and the provision of neutrals; and fostering the establishment and maintenance of constructive processes to improve labor-management relationships, employment security and organizational effectiveness.

Responsibilities

As a Mediator you will be responsible for promoting the development of sound and stable labor-management relationships by advocating the practice of collective bargaining, mediation and arbitration. You will also be responsible for fostering the establishment and maintenance of constructive joint processes to improve labor-management relationships and preventing or minimizing work stoppages through the use of mediation, relationship development training and other joint processes. Mediators also provide a wide range of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) services to help government entities reduce litigation costs, including mediation of discrimination and other claims, workplace conflict management training, facilitation, systems design and negotiated rulemaking. Additional duties for the incumbent include:

  • Mediating labor-management disputes involving initial or successor collective bargaining agreements in situations which range from a moderate degree of difficulty to those which are highly complex due to their economic impact, the number and difficulty of issues involved, the existence of an actual work stoppage or the imminent threat of one, and/or a history of difficult labor-management relations.
  • Performing research necessary to understand the dispute, the industry or field involved, the labor relations history of the parties and all other pertinent facts or background information. Works with parties to develop an understanding of the issues involved, as well as their interests and positions. Utilizing factual information and analysis of the overall situation, as well as knowledge of the mediation process and techniques, to determine the action or approach to be taken. Assisting parties in dealing with the media on sensitive matters of public concern.
  • Identifying opportunities and responding to requests to mediate significant grievances arising during the term of a collective bargaining agreement. Helping parties resolve disputes that might otherwise present obstacles in future rounds of collective bargaining. Improving labor-management relationships through the process of resolving significant and/or backlogged grievances.
  • Providing relationship development training (RDT) designed to help labor and management jointly improve their working relationship and the overall day-to-day labor-management relations climate. Assessing relationship and works with parties to develop and deliver customized training programs designed to enhance efficiency, productivity and job security. Utilizing a variety of program delivery methods, including live and/or web-based online collaborative processes where appropriate.
  • Mediating and/or facilitating a variety of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) matters for government entities, including discrimination claims, other workplace conflicts, regulatory compliance, regulatory negotiations, multi-party conflicts and other disputes which are of a particularly unique, difficult, or complex nature. Identifying potential customers and negotiates reimbursable agreements in coordination with supervisor.
  • Engaging in education, outreach and advocacy activities to increase awareness of FMCS conflict resolution services and programs. Utilizing creative approaches to identify and/or create opportunities to inform public about FMCS dispute resolution services.
  • In all service delivery areas, utilizing current and creative means and approaches to help parties resolve disputes and manage conflict; maintaining current knowledge and awareness of major developments in field of labor-management relations, ADR and conflict management, generally; keeping apprised of developments involving specific industries, occupations, and bargaining issues, as well as new techniques and theories involving ADR; collaborating with managers and mediators to develop new and innovative approaches.
  • Utilizing technology resources to accomplish the administrative and service delivery functions of the position. As the resources develop, utilizing new technologies and electronic communications platforms to creatively and efficiently accomplish the work, including, but not limited to, researching, scheduling meetings and conferences, training and delivering certain services using the newest software and web-based platforms. In the format established by the Service, mediators are responsible for making factual and timely reports regarding collective bargaining mediation, grievance mediation, relationship development training, alternative dispute resolution services and education, advocacy and outreach activities.

In order to be found qualified for the GS-13 Mediator position with FMCS; your resume must clearly reflect your full-time collective bargaining process experience. This experience can be gained by having served as the Chief/Lead Spokesperson/Second Chair/Benefits Expert (representing labor or management) in the negotiation of collective bargaining agreements or while serving as a Mediator or Facilitator with parties engaged in the collective bargaining processes.

There is no education requirement for the government mediator job position.

Job Prospects (Excerpted from Occupational Handbook (OOH) published by the Department of Labor)

Because arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators deal extensively with legal issues and disputes, those with a law degree should have better job prospects. In addition, lawyers with expertise or experience in one or more particular legal areas, such as environmental, health, or corporate law, should have the best job prospects.

Credits

Helpful Career Planning Tools

The information provided may not cover all aspects of unique or special circumstances, federal and postal regulations, and programs are subject to change. Our articles and replies are time sensitive. Over time, various dynamic human resource guidance and factors relied upon as a basis for this article may change. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation and this service is not affiliated with OPM, the postal service or any federal entity. You should consult with school counselors, hiring agency personnel offices, and human resource professionals where appropriate. Neither the publisher or author shall be liable for any loss or any other commercial damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages.

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