Labor and Employee Relations

The Office of Labor and Employee Relations is responsible for providing high-level human resources consulting to the Institute's departments, labs and centers for all staff—faculty, administrative, sponsored research, support, and service—regarding a wide variety of employee issues and personnel policies. The office also provides support for employee/faculty appointments, transfers, promotions, annual reviews, and similar changes in employment status, and handles relations with the Institute's five labor unions.

After Debra Gratto, director of Employee Relations, left MIT in September, Employee Relations and Labor Relations merged into a single area headed by Marianna Pierce, former director of Labor Relations. In May, Jonathan Barnes was hired as the new manager of Labor Relations. Other staffing changes included Jim Dezieck, formerly an organization development consultant in the Office of Organization and Employee Development, replacing Che Eagle as a human resources officer (HRO), and Lucy Lui leaving her HRO role to become the director of human resources at the Sloan School. A structural change within Human Resources also affected the Employee and Labor Relations functions, as the HR representatives, who provide transactional support for changes in employee status, were transferred to the direction of Human Resources Information Systems. The Office of Labor and Employee Relations now consists of eight staff members: the director, the manager of labor relations, six human resources officers, and one administrative assistant.

Labor Relations

The Office of Labor Relations is responsible for negotiating and administering the collective bargaining agreements covering approximately 1,250 MIT employees in five bargaining units. Labor Relations also oversees MIT's representation in grievance arbitrations and, in some cases, before administrative agencies in employment-related cases. In addition, the office provides advice and counsel to departments, laboratories, and centers on issues that involve union relations, collective bargaining, litigation, and employment policy affecting the unionized staff.

As of June 30, 2003, contract negotiations were underway with the Campus Police, and a one-year contract with the Research, Development and Technical Employees' Union (RDTEU) was agreed to and awaiting ratification. Contracts with the Security Officers' Independent Union (SOIU) at Lincoln Laboratory and both the campus and Lincoln bargaining units of the Service Employees' International Union (SEIU) do not expire until June 30, 2004.

During FY2003, the Office of Labor Relations heard 19 step three grievances. In this same period, two arbitration hearings were held, one that resulted in an award in favor of the union and the other in an award in favor of MIT. Four cases that had been filed for arbitration were resolved or withdrawn before or during the arbitration hearing. There are two cases currently pending before the National Labor Relations Board, one of which appears close to a negotiated resolution.

The office continues to try to resolve conflicts at an early stage, and to consider the concerns of both management and the unions in working toward mutually satisfactory results.

Employee Relations

Human Resources officers are assigned to specific schools and organizational areas and serve as the primary point of contact for these client groups. The HRO's are responsible for partnering with these groups to understand their business operation as it relates to their human resource needs, and for coordinating other HR services to help them address particular problems and opportunities. In conjunction with Staffing Services, the HRO's also support departments in the processing of job listings, applicant materials, and employment advertising. A large percentage of HRO time is spent counseling client groups and employees on:

The HR/Payroll project continued to be a major focus of Employee Relations this year. Some HRO's were deeply involved in project-related teams designing the new systems. All HRO's were involved in some aspects of the project, such as getting community feedback on changes in processing human resources transactions.

In November, revised vacation and bereavement policies took effect that provide a more competitive, contemporary, and consistent benefit for MIT employees. The Office of Employee Relations was deeply involved in developing the policy, working out administrative details, communicating it to employees and supervisors, and creating an Excel tool to keep track of vacation time earned under the new policy.

This year saw an expansion of offerings to the MIT community through HR Partners, an Institute-wide professional group consisting of individuals who have major human resources responsibilities in MIT's DLC's, and HR practitioners in MIT's Human Resources Department. In December, 50 HR partners attended "Fundamentals of Human Resource Management," a two-day training provided by the Society for Human Resources Management. They gave the training extremely positive reviews. HR partners now has its own web site, and "HR Partners News & Information," the mailing list used to keep HR practitioners informed of new services, policy updates, and HR-related events, currently has over 230 subscribers.

In June, a "Lunch and Learn" series was held on Managing Layoffs, attracting about 45 attendees who learned the process of implementing layoffs at MIT. Throughout the year, the HRO's continued to teach the Management Principles training series offered through the Office of Organization and Employee Development. The Office of Labor and Employee Relations also worked with staff from the Senior Counsel's Office and Ombuds Office to develop a new interdepartmental training focusing on handling employee complaints that has already been taken directly to two different departments.

Marianna Pierce
Director, Labor and Employee Relations

More information about Labor and Employee Relations can be found on the web at


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