As we hit the halfway mark of 2021, much of the “temporary” remains with some of it maybe not so temporary after all.
PERC’s offices remain closed with the staff continuing to work remotely. PERC continues to offer its services virtually. Fortunately, we have been able to offer all of our services without disruption since moving to all remote/virtual work 16 months ago.
We are currently planning on reopening our offices on September 13 but may push that back should circumstances require. We are not offering any in-person services until at least January 2022.
In May, we completed our Annual Report for 2020. The report, which can be found here, details how the pandemic did and did not impact the agency’s work. It also reflects that the pandemic did not deter PERC from fulfilling its mission.
Our volume of case filings continues to be impacted by the pandemic. The volume of case filings in 2021 is ahead of last year’s pace but behind the previous five years’ average. Requests for contract mediation services have been the most impacted. We are hearing from parties that they expect the pace of requests for contract mediation services to pick up in light of the current cost of living, workload and turnover, and agencies having a better sense of their financial picture.
The temporary decrease in the volume of case filings allowed PERC to launch a new online and virtual training offering. Launched in September 2020, the Negotiation Project is an innovative conflict prevention program that explores how academic theories and research about negotiation apply in Washington state public sector labor relations. Through online and eventually in-person discussions, negotiators can improve their skills and better manage conflicts. Lunchtime Zoom sessions continue with the next one scheduled for August 24, and look for podcasts on the topic. To find out more about the Negotiation Project and sign up for the email list, visit here.
In the 2021 legislative session, the legislature passed Senate Bill 5055, which requires PERC to create a roster of 9 to 18 arbitrators to conduct disciplinary grievance arbitration for law enforcement personnel. The law also requires PERC to develop training on racism, implicit bias, cultural diversity, and the daily experiences of a law enforcement officer to be taken by appointees to the roster. Arbitrators on this roster will eventually conduct all disciplinary grievance arbitrations for law enforcement personnel, with the appointments being made on a rotating alphabetical basis. For more information on this new roster, including the required qualifications and approved arbitration fee schedule, click here.
Finally, thank you to all of you who have expressed your appreciation for the manner in which PERC staff have made it possible to offer services virtually these last 16 months. It is gratifying to hear that you found these to be the same high quality services that you have come to expect and appreciate from PERC staff.
Michael P. Sellars, Executive Director
Public Employment Relations Commission