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  • Bill Cole

From the Interest Arbitration Archives - Investigative role of the Arbitrator.

Interest arbitrators have long urged parties to understand that their role is to provide an arbitrated outcome that replicates that found among suitable comparators, relevant market trends and their expert understanding of the give-and-take of the negotiation and arbitration processes. In fulfilling these obligations arbitrators rely on the materials and presentations put before them, they do not see their responsibilities to include independent research, separate from what the parties have provided.


Arbitrator Rick MacDowell considered this question in a case involving teachers on a military base. In Canadian Forces Base Petawawa and the Petawawa Board of Education, he concluded:


We do not think we are at liberty to undertake our own independent inquiry, or assemble our own evidentiary foundation for the conclusion which we ultimately reach - at least in the absence of agreement of the parties that we may do so (see Trustees of Ottawa Civic Hospital and CUPE Local 576 et al. (1970) 70 CLLC p. 14,021). It is one thing to take "judicial notice" of commonly known industrial relations phenomena, generally recognized statistical trends, or the views of academic or arbitral commentators on the issues in dispute. It is quite another to gather our own statistical information and analyze it in order to "make the case" which one or the other of the parties might have made on any particular issue. This function may well be within the province of a 'fact finder' but in our view, the role of an arbitrator must necessarily be more limited. It was for this reason that we directed that the parties exchange briefs, so that both of them would be in a position to collect and put before us all the relevant data supporting their own position or qualifying that of the other party.


C.F.B. and Petawawa Board of Education, (unreported) August 27, 1981 (MacDowell).

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