Study visit to the USA Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service as the first activity towards cooperation promotion

04. 07. 2023.

Delegation of the Republic Agency for Peaceful Settlement of Labor Disputes and International Labor Organization went for a study visit to the USA Federal Conciliation and Mediation Service (FMCS) from June 26 - 30, 2023. This visit was organized for the purpose good practice sharing, as well as identification of possible areas for Agency improvement and its capacity development. FMCS was selected as a partner because it directly contributed to the Agency establishment 19 years ago, introducing the mechanism of alternative solutions to working disputes in the Republic Serbia in accordance with their own huge practice and experience. This visit was realized owing to the support of the International Labor Organization (ILO) within a project that represents a part of the "Initiative for Global Solidarity" (IGS) of the German Development Cooperation, which is implemented by GIZ, the German Agency for International Cooperation. The Federal Conciliation and Mediation Service was established in 1947 on the basis of the so-called Taft-Hartley Act, as an independent agency with the mission to preserve and promote peace and cooperation between trade unions and employers. Based in Washington and present in six more regions including over 60 field offices, this federal service provides services of mediation and resolution of disputes in industry and government agencies. Our delegation had an opportunity to meet the FMCS Director, Mr Javier Ramirez, and get to know more details of organizational, structural and strategic systems of agencies for alternative dispute resolution. The goal of the meeting was to study and compare systems of dispute resolutions in the USA and Serbia, identify benefits and good practices, as well as internal process development. After an introductory presentation on extensive legislation on alternative dispute resolutions in the USA, Director Ramirez openly shared the FMCS mission and vision, challenges they are faced with and ways in which they try to overcome them. In addition to the meeting, RAMRRS delegation had an opportunity to talk with Mrs Bet Schindler, FMCS Commissioner, deputy director for field operations, and Mr Walter Darom, FMCS Commissioner and field operations manager, about specific procedures in FMCS (entire flow), routing and assignment of cases, mediator and arbitrator work evaluation, performance management and professional development of mediators and arbitrators , technology they use, both during mediation (internally and for reporting ), team organization (meetings with team members) and participations in the community. Further meetings with FMCS mediators and arbitrators were also very productive, and our delegation learned about multiple tools and techniques they use, which are very advanced and modern. The FMCS mediators and arbitrators shared recent examples of their own cases, highlighting the importance of building relationship with trade unions and communities, as well as everyday communication with them. It was our pleasure to listen to experiences of David Thaler, head of FMCS International Affairs, Pete Swenson, Manager of Dispute Prevention Office, Arthur Pearlstein, Director of FMCS Arbitration Service Office (who ran the first training for arbitrators in Serbia 20 years ago) and many others. Special visit to the Regional FMCS office in New York was also organized, where we listened to experiences of Pete Donatello, Operations Manager for Region 1 (Northeast USA), as well as mediators Nelson Rivera and Carlos Dads. In addition to the FMCS, the delegation visited National Mediation Board, National Board for Labor Relations, and the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission and learned about competencies and practice of these bodies. H.E. Mr Marko Đurić, ambassador of the Republic Serbia to the United States of America honored our delegation by organizing a reception and expressing his interest and support for this form of exchange of experiences and cooperation between our two countries. The delegation included the Agency Director, Ivica Lazović, who presented our practice and organization to the hosts, Dragana Andonovska, manager of legal affairs group, Miloš Prokić , Agency adviser, Jovan Protić, ILO national coordinator for Serbia and Jovana Spaić-Erdeljan, manager of the ILO project. This visit is the first activity towards promotion of cooperation between two agencies who share many similarities and will provide grounds for RAMRRS capacity building.