Arbitration is a process where two or more parties, who have been
unable to negotiate a solution to a problem, agree to put the matter
to an independent neutral person to provide an answer, and to be
bound by that decision.
Sound simple? It can be, and has been
known to be used by people in all societies since the days of the
early Greek civilization.
Why? Because merchants involved in commercial disputes, shipping
companies and their customers, insurance companies and the insured,
unions and employers, have all found over the years that the process
works. It provides sensible results withouth having to go to court.
The popularly of arbitration over the years (and in fact, centuries)
shows that the system works well and efficiently for those who use it.
For example, complaints under union-management collective agreements are
routinely resolved by arbitration - and it is the rare case that goes to
There are similarities between arbitration proceedings and
those of the courtroom.
- The arbitrator hears evidence from witnesses for the parties.
- Each side is represented by a spokeman or advocate
- The arbitrator listens to the arguments and produces a binding
award, just as a court gives a judgment.
The differences between litigation / arbitration are:
- No long written pleadings (through briefs and written
argument can be used and are sometimes very effective)
- Delays and extra "motions" are eliminated, or at least kept
to a minimum
- The rules of evidence and formality are relaxed and less
Sometimes the parties to a dispute prefer a 3-person arbitration
board rather than a single arbitrator. Each side nominates one person to
the board and the nominees select a chairperson from our member list.
The capacity of our
members to assist the public is not limited to arbitration. Some
parties can be better served by mediation. This system of
dispute resolution is even less formal than arbitration. The
mediator cannot, and does not, make decisions which are binding
upon the parties. Rather, the mediator acts as a "catalyst", a
discussion leader and advisor, to assist the parties in settling
Unlike the arbitration process, which involves such things as
hearings, the swearing of witnesses and the like, mediation is a
process of exploration designed to find answers. The parties may
not even be in the same room for some of the time. The mediator
will shuttle between them for private talks to find out their
real concerns, where they can "move" and how to bring about that
Another option is for the parties to remit their differences
to a Med-Arb process. This has proved useful and popular. The
independent neutral will then first mediate the issues - but is
also empowered to arbitrate those issues which mediation has
failed to resolve.
Med-Arb lends itself to variations which the parties may
create as they go along, whereas arbitration is more structured.