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Here are some questions we are frequently asked by people who are considering mediation but aren't sure if it's right for them.  If you have a question we haven't answered, please contact us.
What is mediation? Mediation is a process whereby the people involved in a dispute or disagreement agree to bring in a neutral outside person skilled at problem-solving to help them attempt to resolve the problem.
What is arbitration? Arbitration is a legal proceeding whereby the people involved in a dispute or disagreement appear before a Board of Arbitration or a single arbitrator who will hand down a final and binding decision in the matter. 
I feel that I have been wronged and think I have a really great case. I'm really looking forward to having my "day in court". Why should I bother with mediation? At arbitration, the issue is decided on the basis of, who is right or wrong legally. A number of factors can affect the outcome of a case at arbitration - do you have a legal entitlement to what you are seeking? - and even with a seemingly iron clad case, you cannot be 100% sure that you are going to get what you are looking for. Mediation provides you with an opportunity to work towards a settlement that addresses your concerns. If you aren't able to arrive at a settlement, you can still proceed to arbitration.
I feel really strongly about my side of this case. Why should I consider a compromise? Strong feelings are not a factor that will be considered at the hearing. A compromise may get you a settlement you can live with and that addresses your interests and concerns. A hearing will get you a win/lose outcome. If you lose, you get nothing and, because there is no appeal procedure, you are stuck with the decision, like it or not.
If I have my day in court and lose, can I still try mediation? It is quite unlikely that the other party, who will have at this point, spent considerable money and time fighting it out with you and winning, will be willing to mediate. 
I've heard that mediators just throw their weight around and lean on people to get them to give in. Is this true? Is it what you guys do? Mediators all have their own "style". No doubt, there are some out there who engage in this type of "muscle mediation". This is not our style. While it is only fair that the mediator alert you to aspects of your case which may be problematic at the hearing stage, arm twisting is not something that we believe is necessary or appropriate in this setting.
How would I set up a mediation meeting? If the other party to the dispute is agreeable to mediation, contact us by phone, fax or email and provide the following information: The names of the parties (employer and union), the date on which you would like to hold the meeting, the location where the meeting is to be held and the time you want to get started. 
Who should attend? The parties are free to have whoever they want present at the meeting. Each side would choose its representatives ensuring that people whose input will be required or whose approval is needed for a settlement are present or can be reached during the day.
What should I bring? Bring whatever information or materials you feel are necessary to have a full and frank review of the issue. 
What exactly does the mediator do? Generally, the mediator will meet with the parties in separate rooms. This allows for candid and open discussion and avoids the likelihood of tempers flaring. The mediator will initially speak to both sides to get a sense of what the issue is and what each side's perspective is on the issue, what happened, what the positions of the parties are, what you are seeking, what either side may be willing to do to settle. Following that, s/he will go back and forth between the two rooms discussing possibilities for resolution and addressing concerns. If a settlement is reached, s/he will write up the terms of settlement and get each side to sign off. 
Will agreeing to mediation work against me if we end up at an arbitration hearing? No. The mediation meeting is agreed to on the basis that it will not prejudice either party if the issue ends up in a hearing. Everything that is discussed is discussed on the understanding that it is in confidence and will not be used as an admission of guilt or liability. If you end up at a hearing, it will be as if the mediation meeting never took place.
If a settlement is being discussed, do we/I have to make up my mind right then and there? It is best that you be prepared to sign off on a settlement at the meeting. Depending on the circumstances, it does sometimes happen that either or both parties need time to consider or consult with others, however, this should be worked out at the meeting and usually a time frame is established by which the settlement must be signed off.
Can I be forced to agree to something that I really don't feel comfortable with? No. At mediation, no one can be compelled to agree to something they really don't want. If you are an employee represented by a union, however, you should know that in most cases, the union does have the authority to settle a grievance on a basis that is acceptable to it.
What happens if we are not able to settle? The party having carriage of the grievance is free to proceed to arbitration if it chooses to do so.
Don't people who use mediators just become dependent on them? We find that the opposite tends to be the case. As people become accustomed to problem solving and resolving their own issues, they are more inclined to do it themselves.