Teachers union president Michael Mulgrew is calling for the power to declare a deadlock in the union’s contract negotiations with the city.

At a meeting of the United Federation of Teachers’ delegate assembly, Mulgrew asked members to vote and grant him the authority to call an impasse in negotiations, setting things in motion for contract talks to proceed toward the complicated and lengthy fact-finding process. A spokesman for the UFT said that Mulgrew was not declaring an actual deadlock, but was signaling that if talks do not improve, he will do so.

(Update: At 5:41 p.m., by UFT spokesman Dick Riley’s watch, the delegate assembly passed the resolution)

Declaring an impasse would mean calling in the state’s Public Employment Relations Board to verify that contract talks have stalled and then bringing in a mediator to restart negotiations. If the mediation fails, then the fact-finding process would begin — something that the union isn’t exactly looking to avoid, as fact-finding commissions in years past have recommended wage increases and prevented the city from laying off teachers who are excessed and can’t find new positions.

“There’s no downside and it shows his members that he’s doing something,” said Peter Goodman, a long-time UFT member, of Mulgrew’s request for the authority to call an impasse.

The UFT’s contract with the city expired on October 31, but a statute allows teachers to work under an expired contract until a new one is in place.

A press release from the UFT states:

The Delegate Assembly of the United Federation of Teachers, the union’s highest policy-making body, will consider at its meeting Wednesday a resolution that authorizes the union leadership to seek the intervention of the state’s Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) in stalled contract talks.

If PERB were to find that an impasse exists, the state agency would appoint a mediator to bring the sides together.  If mediation were to fail, PERB would then appoint a fact-finding panel to hold hearings and make a recommendation for a settlement.

UFT President Mike Mulgrew said, “We have had a number of meetings and have made some progress.  But many other issues remain and our contract has expired. We will continue to negotiate, but to help ensure that we can reach a fair agreement I want to have the authority to declare — if necessary — that we are at impasse and to ask the state to intervene.”

The UFT’s most recent contract was a two-year pact that expired October 31, 2009.

Under the Taylor Law that governs relations between management and public employee labor unions, all the terms of an expired agreement continue in place until a new agreement is reached, including during the impasse/mediation/fact-finding process.

Fact-finding produces non-binding recommendations designed to help the parties craft a final settlement.  In 2005, 2002 and 1993, the recommendations of fact-finding panels helped the UFT and the Board of Education* to reach agreements to replace expired teacher contracts.