CP union takes dispute public
By Reuven M. Lerner
The MIT Police Association took a four-month labor dispute public last weekend, distributing flyers and speaking with community members in front of Building 7. Campus Police Chief Anne P. Glavin responded in a statement yesterday, saying that the flyer was "misleading the MIT community."
According to Joseph Sarduli, an attorney who represents the Police Association in collective bargaining, the union contract "was set to expire on June 30." Since then, MIT and the Police Association have met "a couple of times a month" to try to resolve their differences, he added. The police officers' contracts had been extended at each of the meetings, Sarduli noted.
Neither James J. Fandel, MIT's manager of labor relations, nor William R. Dickson '54, senior vice president, could be reached for comment on the negotiations.
MIT Vice President Constantine Simonides '57, who heads the Personnel Department, agreed that it would have been nice "to have a new contract" when the old one expired, but noted that there were still "five or six unions" at MIT and Lincoln Laboratories without final contracts.
The Police Association flyer gave several reasons for the union's public protest. One, which was labeled "the danger," warned of street gangs who "would sooner blow you away as give you the time of day" and added that there were "only three patrol officers on the street" on the night of Oct. 7.
In both her statement and a telephone interview, Glavin rebutted the Police Association's claims, saying that during the "peak hours" of 6-11:30 pm, there were "seven patrol officers," in addition to a lieutenant and a duty sergeant who were "often on the street." Similarly, she said, seven police officers had been on duty from 11:30 pm-2:00 am.
Sarduli said that while he had not seen Glavin's statement, the union had been "very careful in making that allegation," and that the number they quoted "was the number" of officers on duty that night.
Glavin refused, however, to comment on the threat of street gangs to the MIT community. Sarduli said that the threat was real, and noted that gang members have been "sitting on the steps" of some Institute buildings during the night.
In her statement, Glavin said that she had "instituted the 6 pm-2 am police shift" for reasons of "public safety," which she called her "paramount concern as chief of police."
Sarduli acknowledged that such a schedule had been instituted, but said that it didn't let police officers get enough sleep. He proposed having officers alternate shifts at 4 pm and midnight, which would let the officers sleep eight hours a night.
One issue on the bargaining table has remained unresolved since two years ago, when the Police Association was involved in a similar labor dispute. The union would like a "4-2 schedule," which would give them two days off for every four days of work. According to Sarduli, policemen on such a schedule average 37.5 hours a week, as opposed to the 40 hours that the contract requires. He said that since campus police consider themselves "on par with Boston and Cambridge police departments," it would only be fair "to be compensated with the same work schedule that those departments have."
Health benefits also at issue
The Police Association is also opposed to a reduction in health benefits which MIT is requesting. According to Simonides, the Institute looks at "the increasing cost of medical care" every year. He said that this year, MIT offered to pay part of the union's health benefits, if the union members would pay for the other part. According to the union's flyer, this would amount to "a wage cut of about one percent" for campus police officers.
Sarduli said that such a plan was unfair to the officers, and that it was "hard enough to survive without the university trying to push the police backwards." He noted a $77 million surplus in the pension fund which MIT is unwilling to use to pay for health benefits, and added that Institute negotiators had originally denied that such a surplus even existed.
Only 40 patrolmen are currently negotiating with MIT for a new contract. Two years ago, negotiations reached a similar impasse after more than a year of negotiations. The union then decided to suspend negotiations until a replacement had been found for then-Campus Police Chief James Olivieri, who had previously announced his intention to retire at the end of the year.