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Campus Police Labor Dispute with MIT Enters Second Year

By Frank Dabek

The Campus Police continue to operate under an expired contract while a labor dispute, which centers around scheduling and staffing issues, is resolved. The long-standing dispute will enter its second year this month.

Alan McDonald of McDonald and Associates, who represents the MIT Campus Police Association, said that the unresolved issues in the dispute are “quality of life issues” which revolve around the use of overtime, time off, and scheduling. Also, CP officers are not financially compensated as well as their municipal counterparts, he said.

Leaflets distributed by the association enumerated demands including the implementation of safety measure for patrols in Boston, compliance with federal laws regarding overtime pay, and a reward system for officers who further their education.

Overtime, scheduling disputed

McDonald said that the MIT Campus Police department has a “history of extensive overtime” due to an apparently “insufficient staff to meet the needs of the community.” As a result, officers are often ordered to work involuntary overtime.

During negotiations, the association has proposed that officers not be called into work except in the case of an emergency or during commencement. MIT declined the proposal.

David B. Achenbach, manager of labor relations for the Institute, responded to the association’s demands by describing overtime work as an “occupational hazard” and saying that it is “part of the nature of public safety.” Negotiations have yielded a “lot of good work on issues of overtime, details, and staffing for details,” he said. A proposed agreement gives officers more control over the possibility that they will be ordered to work for involuntary overtime.

McDonald referred to these proposals as a “short term attempt to make the system more convenient” without solving the problem.

Other scheduling proposals made by the association included asking that MIT respond promptly to vacation requests and not deny such requests unreasonably and allowing officers to use personal time in one hour increments. Achenbach said that the Institute rejected the proposals after a review of statistics showed that only three of 54 requests were denied and that the vast majority of requests were answered within a week.

Boston deputization contested

The deputization of Campus Police officers in Boston represents another point of debate in the contract negotiations. The association’s leaflet demands a policy to prevent “serious injury or impairment” to officers patrolling Boston under a recently implemented administration policy. After the death of Scott S. Krueger ’01, MIT made routine patrols of the Boston fraternities part of its plan to control drinking on campus.

Kevin Hayes, a member of the association leadership, said that the Suffolk County sheriff had refused to deputize Campus Police officers due to the ongoing contract dispute.

The association “objects to [MIT] simply imposing” the Boston policing program without researching safety issues, McDonald said.

Achenbach, however, said that the association was using the issue of Suffolk County deputization “as a leverage point” in the negotiations. Achenbach also disputed CP claims that the Boston environment represents a “safety concern of a different type than there is on campus.”

McDonald denied that the issue of Boston policing was being used for leverage and said that the Association was willing to separate the issue from contract negotiations.

As a result of this disagreement the association has filed a bad faith bargaining complaint against the Institute.

Educational incentives requested

A leaflet distributed by the association outlined their proposal for educational incentives. McDonald said that the proposal calls on MIT to recognize “that officers who have taken college level courses are more valuable.”

The leaflet cites the Massachusetts Police Accreditation Commission guidelines which recommends such incentives and Harvard University which implements such a practice.

Achenbach, however, pointed out that the Institute already offers all employees $5,250 to use towards education. The Institute rejected the proposal because it creates a pay scale which “doesn’t reflect performance except in a broad and crude fashion.”

Institute in violation of labor law

Under an old agreement between MIT and the association, officers could agree to work on a holiday which they were not scheduled to work in return for a “comp day” off work another day. This policy may have violated federal labor laws which require that hours worked in excess of 40 in one week be paid at time and a half. As a result the Institute may have inadequately compensated some officers, he said.

Achenbach said that MIT had contacted the Department of Labor regarding the violations and was working to rectify any inadequate compensation caused by the policy. The DOL has issued no fines against MIT since the Institute has acted in “good faith,” he said.

McDonald said that this issue of comp days is connected to other scheduling concerns.

Achenbach, however, characterized the CP’s focus on the issue of comp. days as a “vexation strategy” intended to prolong negotiations.

The Association leaflet included a notice to all employees of MIT who may have been subject to inadequate overtime compensation, and McDonald said that the policy was Institute-wide.

Achenbach, however, said that the comp day agreement was unique to the Campus Police and it was unlikely that other employees were affected.

Resolution uncertain

According to Achenbach, an agreement may be reached over this summer. He expressed hope that scheduling proposals will lead to an agreement.

McDonald was also hopeful that a recent counterproposal made by the association will produce progress. He said, however, that the Institute’s strategy may be to “hold out without dealing effectively with the issue themselves” and wait for other parties to concede.

A strike is a possibility since the Campus Police are private sector employees. McDonald said that strike was “a weapon of last resort” but one that could not be ruled out.