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Vitriol, Charges Product Of CP Contract Dispute

By Sanjay Basu
ASSOCIATE NEWS EDITOR

The ongoing contract dispute between the MIT Campus Police Association and the administration has become increasingly heated of late as the association continued its leaflet campaign and filed charges against MIT with the National Labor Relations Board.

According to a leaflet distributed by members of the association last month, the National Labor Relations Board “found probable cause that MIT violated federal labor law in its dealings with the Association and has filed formal complaints against the Institute.”

MIT’s Labor Relations Manager David Achenbach said, “The Association has filed a number of different charges against MIT with different government agencies. The charges have been a distraction to the negotiations process. I believe that the charges were filed with the intention of needlessly consuming time and resources ... the complaint is no more than an allegation that the law may have been violated.”

The charges against MIT

According to the association leaflet, the NLRB found probable cause for two charges: that MIT was guilty of “bargaining in bad faith” and that the Institute “unlawfully spied on association members [and] unlawfully interrogated and coerced members of the association.”

The NLRB actually reviewed four claims posted by the association against MIT. Those included: 1) the failure of MIT to provide in a timely manner certain records concerning overtime (which the association referred to as “bargaining in bad faith”), 2) MIT surveillance of association leafleting, 3) a charge regarding a specific change to the Pension Plan, and 4) a charge regarding retroactive pay.

The NLRB normally investigates charges and determines whether they should dismiss those charges outright or issue a complaint. The complaint takes the form of an allegation that a party has violated the law. The Board then holds a hearing to determine whether there was indeed a violation. The NLRB issued a complaint against MIT on the first three aforementioned charges.

According to association members, MIT acted in “bad faith” during negotiations soon after CPs began patrolling Boston fraternities as part of an Institute plan to control drinking. After the Boston policing plan began, the Suffolk County sheriff refused to deputize CPs and the association claimed that appropriate policies had not been implemented to prevent “serious injury or impairment” to MIT officers patrolling Boston areas. In a leaflet, the Association also objected to “imposing” on the Boston Police. Achenbach replied by saying that the association had been using the issue as a “leverage point” for contract negotiations.

Association members who participated in distributing leaflets also claimed to have been spied upon and interrogated by Institute officials, leading to the NLRB decision.

CPs react to “last & best” offer

Although the NLRB complaint intensifies the debate between the Association and MIT, contract negotiations have been the primary focus of the labor dispute for the past two years. Scheduling and overtime issues in particular have been key points of contention between the association and MIT.

Alan McDonald, who currently represents the association, said that the MIT Police Department “has a history of extensive overtime,” largely because it employs “insufficient staff to meet the needs of the community.”

The association also reported that they drafted “a proposal for a restructured work schedule [that] would have provided officers with a slightly longer work day in return for more days off, particularly around weekends. Before a ratification vote could be arranged, the association learned that MIT intended to implement the association’s proposal in a perverse manner that would have reduced an officer’s pay by almost three thousand dollars per year.”

The pay reduction is the result of a revised schedule that would cut the number of total hours worked by officers. MIT officials, however, have claimed that they offered to increase the basic hourly rate for experienced officers to $19.76 and also planned to increase that rate again to $20.45 this summer.

According to an October 29 memo sent to administrators by the MIT negotiations team -- namely, Achenbach, Chief of Campus Police Anne P. Glavin, Human Resources Officer Lianne P. Shields, and CP Lieutenant Paul J. Baratta -- both the association and MIT had agreed on a new overtime system. According to the memo, the system uses one master list of officers to determine involuntary overtime assignments. If officers complete overtime voluntarily, their names will be moved to the bottom of the list. Those officers at the top of the list will be selected first for involuntary overtime.

“The proposed new system will work to give officers some measure of control over involuntary overtime assignments,” writes the Negotiations Team. “By volunteering for regular overtime an officer can place him or herself at the bottom of the list, and thus be far less likely to be ordered in for an involuntary assignment during subsequent shifts.”

However, involuntary overtime will not be eliminated altogether. In an interview with Tech reporters late last year, Achenbach called involuntary overtime an “occupational hazard,” saying that it is a “part of the nature of public safety.”

He also called the latest proposal, outlined in the October 29 memo, MIT’s last and best offer.

“The association indicated that it did not believe that this offer was indeed MIT’s ‘last and best’,” he said.

MIT refuses response to leafletting

The new proposal is a product of twenty-five collective bargaining sessions, including fourteen conducted with a federal mediator. The labor dispute is nearly three years old, tracing its roots back to the expiration of the last contract between MIT and the Campus Police association in June 1997. Throughout the process, association members have distributed leaflets explaining their grievances to MIT students and members of the Cambridge community.

The most recent leaflet refers to MIT as “an Imperial Institute” calling Achenbach “the Imperial Institute’s Manipulator General of Labor Relations” and referring to Glavin as “Chieftain Annie.”

MIT officials have refused to publicly respond to the leaflets. According to a memo sent to administrators by Achenbach, Glavin, Shields, and Baratta last September, “Experience has shown that by focusing energy away from the hard work of reaching agreement at the bargaining table, tactics like issuing bulletins and otherwise engaging in public debate on issues tend to detract from rather than enhance the collective bargaining process.”

“An unfortunate side-effect of not engaging in tit-for-tat public exchanges of information is that no-one gets to hear the other side of the story,” the group wrote. “MIT has no wish to debate the association in public. We would prefer to do our bargaining at the negotiating table.”

Achenbach later said, “The resolution to this issue would be for the association to accept MIT’s generous last and best offer. I hope that happens.”