In an attempt to resolve the contract dispute between the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) and the New York City Department of Education (DOE), a new panel will now take testimony, hold hearings and issue reports and recommendations. The three-member panel was appointed by the New York State Public Employment Relations Board (PERB).

The three members of the panel, all picked after nominations and discussions by the UFT, DOE and PERB, are Martin F. Scheinman, Mark Grossman and Howard Edelman. Scheinman was named chairperson of the panel. All are labor arbitrators.

In a letter to both parties, PERB said that there hasn’t been any movement toward agreement and that’s why they were intervening. “Whereas, the New York State Public Employment Relations Board has determined that an impasse exists in the negotiations … a Fact Finding Panel is hereby appointed for the purpose of inquiring into the causes and circumstances of the dispute,” read the letter.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew hoped that PERB’s insertion into the discussion would push negotiations toward a quicker result.

“For nearly three years we have been unable to reach a new contract with the Department of Education,” said Mulgrew. “In the past a review of the issues by independent fact-finders appointed by the state has helped break this kind of deadlock, and it is our hope that PERB’s intervention this time will help lead to an agreement.”

The UFT contract expired October 31, 2009.

The PERB panel has the ability to subpoena witnesses and documents, administer oaths, take testimony and after hearings will transmit “findings of fact and recommendations for resolution of the dispute” to the parties and the public. Recommendations aren’t binding, but are expected to provide a framework for the final settlement.

Fact-finding panels to help resolve previous contract disputes between the DOE and UFT.