The University Record, April 17, 1995

Conciliation service helps those who have desire to address problem

Conciliation service helps those who have desire to address problem

By Jared Blank

The University's Human Resources and Affirmative Action Office is now providing a Conciliation and Consultation Service to help resolve disputes or misunderstandings in the workplace without the filing of a formal grievance. A dozen faculty and staff members have taken advantage of this service since its inception in January.

The program was created as a channel for confidential handling of employment concerns, says Sally Johnson, director of alternative dispute services and former manager of human resource development. For the program to be successful "it must be comfortable and safe for anyone to call ... if you're concerned about something at work, you can get confidential information about procedures," Johnson explains. "Unless we are under a legal requirement to act, as in the case of sexual harassment, we won't involve others until you ask us to."

Both supervisors and staff have used the service to discuss on-the-job problems. "A number of our callers have asked us to help resolve a sour working relationship that is affecting people's ability to get work done," Johnson says.

The program has been successful so far because the people who have sought help from the service have a desire to mend the problem, and the supervisor or employee on the other end of the relationship has been receptive to the help. Johnson believes that conciliation also can help salvage the personal relationship because no formal actions have been taken.

The Conciliation and Consultation Service is a pilot program for Ann Arbor campus faculty and non-bargained-for staff, except for the Medical Center. Currently, bargained-for staff have union-mandated procedures in their contracts. AFSCME does include pre-grievance procedures in its current contract.

The Medical Campus and Flint and Dearborn campuses are assisting in designing the pilot and plan to implement similar services at a later date.

In June, all Ann Arbor campus human resources and affirmative action representatives (except those at the Medical Center), as well as 12 faculty and staff members, will undertake a 40-hour intensive training program to learn how to be mediators. Classes will be taught by Edward Hartfield, a former federal labor mediator. Following the training, names of the available mediators will be published. In the interim, services are being provided by Johnson and by Donald Perigo, former student ombudsman and long-time professional mediator.

If you would like information or mediation services from the Conciliation and Consultation Service, call Johnson at 763-1284. All calls can be kept confidential, and appointments can be set up at convenient locations.