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Timed Mediation

The Process Defined

Timed Mediation is an intensive, issues oriented method used to achieve a collective bargaining agreement. The process utilizes a combination of traditional bargaining methods with a joint approach toward problem solving using the mediation staff of the Pennsylvania Bureau of Mediation as both facilitators and mediators. The procedure also places a self-imposed deadline, normally forty-eight hours, by which the parties must reach agreement.

Success Rate

Since the program’s inception in 1990, Timed Mediation has had a 95% success rate.


A trusting relationship must exist between the parties. There must also be a willingness of each party to limit the number of issues to those that are absolutely necessary in order to achieve a new agreement. Additionally, once the time deadline is set, both parties must commit to remain over at a hotel/motel and away from the worksite until the process is concluded.

After the list of issues has been finalized and the process has begun, nothing else can be added to the list. Also of importance is a pledge from each negotiating committee to permit the assigned mediators to participate in their respective caucus sessions.

Timed Mediation Preparation

It is important for labor and management representatives to openly discuss what issues will be raised during timed mediation and to get a sense from each other where their respective bottom line might be. Once each party is aware of what issues will be raised during the process, each party will prepare data and information as if they were involved in traditional bargaining.

How it Works

Unlike the traditional method of collective bargaining, artificial barriers are eliminated from the beginning by using, for example, alternate seating arrangements. Second, the final list of issues is placed on a chart so that all participants know and understand that these are the only issues to be resolved and that nothing else can be added. Third, the order in which the issues will be discussed and decided upon will be determined by the mediators. Fourth, once an issue is selected, the moving party will begin by speaking on the issue, i.e., why it is important or why it is a problem. Fifth, a roundtable discussion will follow involving all participants. After the discussion is completed, and not before, the moving party will generate a proposal to be accepted or countered. Sixth, if the proposal is countered, discussion and the exchange of counter proposals will continue until the issue is resolved.


Remember, because you are dealing with a self-imposed time restriction, open and frank discussion between the parties and mediators prior to using the process is essential. It will make the decision to participate in Timed Mediation an easy and correct choice.

Potential Pitfalls as You Develop the Issues

Clearly, if one or both sides find that there is very little, if any, room to negotiate on one or more “must” issues, both sides need to reevaluate whether this procedure is for them. Although it must be understood that “no” is a valid position, if it is used in conjunction with crucial issues, the likelihood of Timed Mediation being successful is not good. Likewise, if either party intends on rewriting the contract, or plans an attempt to hold the other hostage to the process, the probability of success is also low.p>

It is important to understand that once an issue is selected it will be worked on until completed. Once resolved, the issue cannot be reopened.

If the Process is Unsuccessful

Remember, the process is informal until all issues are resolved. Failure to achieve total agreement on all issues by the end of the process is not prejudicial to either side. Negotiations simply begin at a later date as if nothing had occurred, using traditional bargaining.