(1) Either an employer or an exclusive bargaining representative may declare that an impasse has been reached between them in collective bargaining and may request the commission to appoint a mediator for the purpose of assisting them in reconciling their differences and resolving the controversy on terms which are mutually acceptable. If the commission determines that its assistance is needed, not later than five days after the receipt of a request therefor, it shall appoint a mediator in accordance with rules and regulations for such appointment prescribed by the commission. The mediator shall meet with the parties or their representatives, or both, forthwith, either jointly or separately, and shall take such other steps as he or she may deem appropriate in order to persuade the parties to resolve their differences and effect a mutually acceptable agreement. The mediator, without the consent of both parties, shall not make findings of fact or recommend terms of settlement. The services of the mediator, including, if any, per diem expenses, shall be provided by the commission without cost to the parties. Nothing in this subsection (1) shall be construed to prevent the parties from mutually agreeing upon their own mediation procedure, and in the event of such agreement, the commission shall not appoint its own mediator unless failure to do so would be inconsistent with the effectuation of the purposes and policy of this chapter.
(2) If the mediator is unable to effect settlement of the controversy within ten days after his or her appointment, either party, by written notification to the other, may request that their differences be submitted to fact-finding with recommendations, except that the time for mediation may be extended by mutual agreement between the parties. Within five days after receipt of the aforesaid written request for fact-finding, the parties shall select a person to serve as fact finder and obtain a commitment from that person to serve. If they are unable to agree upon a fact finder or to obtain such a commitment within that time, either party may request the commission to designate a fact finder. The commission, within five days after receipt of such request, shall designate a fact finder in accordance with rules and regulations for such designation prescribed by the commission. The fact finder so designated shall not be the same person who was appointed mediator pursuant to subsection (1) of this section without the consent of both parties.
The fact finder, within five days after his or her appointment, shall meet with the parties or their representatives, or both, either jointly or separately, and make inquiries and investigations, hold hearings, and take such other steps as he or she may deem appropriate. For the purpose of such hearings, investigations and inquiries, the fact finder shall have the power to issue subpoenas requiring the attendance and testimony of witnesses and the production of evidence. If the dispute is not settled within ten days after his or her appointment, the fact finder shall make findings of fact and recommend terms of settlement within thirty days after his or her appointment, which recommendations shall be advisory only.
(3) Such recommendations, together with the findings of fact, shall be submitted in writing to the parties and the commission privately before they are made public. Either the commission, the fact finder, the employer, or the exclusive bargaining representative may make such findings and recommendations public if the dispute is not settled within five days after their receipt from the fact finder.
(4) The costs for the services of the fact finder, including, if any, per diem expenses and actual and necessary travel and subsistence expenses, and any other incurred costs, shall be borne by the commission without cost to the parties.
(5) Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit an employer and an exclusive bargaining representative from agreeing to substitute, at their own expense, their own procedure for resolving impasses in collective bargaining for that provided in this section or from agreeing to utilize for the purposes of this section any other governmental or other agency or person in lieu of the commission.
(6) Any fact finder designated by an employer and an exclusive representative or the commission for the purposes of this section shall be deemed an agent of the state.
(7) This section does not apply to negotiations and mediations conducted under RCW 28A.657.050