Mass Labor Commission Dismisses Four Cases Filed By Unions

The Massachusetts Labor Relations Commission, which administers the public sector collective bargaining law for municipal and state employees, just released four decisions that dismiss union charges of unfair labor practices. For your consideration, we provide the following brief summary of the key decisions.

COMMONWEALTH OF MASS/COMM’R OF ADMIN. & FINANCE (SUP-05-5174) (March 30, 2007)

In this case involving correctional officers, the Commission holds that an employer’s decision to record investigatory interviews of employees, instead of taking handwritten notes, does not qualify as a change in a term or condition of employment. The Commission also dismissed the charge over the new policy of disciplining employees for refusing to participate in investigatory interviews as there was no evidence that the employer did not do so prior to the policy.

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Town Of Tyngsborough & IBPO (MUP-05-4420) (March 7, 2007)

In this case involving IBPO police officers, the Labor Relations Commission strictly interpreted its six-month statute of limitations in a manner that may encourage unions to file more ULP’s and more quickly. Here, the Union filed a ULP charge six months after the parties first discussed changes to the personal leave policy. Because the Union knew of these changes prior to that first meeting, the Commission ruled the charge to be untimely.

The Commission also found that the Union failed to support that the Town made a unilateral change concerning the personal leave and shift-swap policies. First, the union produced no evidence of a past practice that entitled patrol officers to use a personal leave whenever request. Second, the Union offered no evidence of the shift-swap practice in existence prior to the Town’s adoption of the policy.

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CITY OF PITTSFIELD (MUP-05-4480) (March 7, 2007)

In this case involving IBPO police officers, the Union charged that the City’s implementation of a flex time scheduled for an in-service training officer violated the Law. The Commission disagreed and dismissed the charges. First, the Commission found no evidence that a flex time schedule actually was implemented. Second, the Commission found no evidence that the employer dealt directly with the officer about scheduling. Third, the absence of a new flex time schedule meant that the employer had no obligation to bargain. Finally, the Commission found no support for the claim that the employer refused to provide information requested by the Union. It noted that the Union failed to produce a copy of any request or describe the information not provided.

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TOWN OF AGAWAM (MUP-05-4479) (March 30, 2007)

Here, the Commission dismissed the Union’s claims that the Town violated the law when it negotiated wage increases individual with three members of the bargaining unit. As wages are a mandatory subject of bargaining and the union is the exclusive bargaining agent, an employer cannot negotiate or implement changes to individual employee pay without providing notice and an opportunity to bargain first to the union. However, the undisputed evidence showed that the parties had a longstanding practice of permitting the Town to negotiate directly with individual employees and the Union had never communicated a change in its position on this practice. The Commission dismissed the charge.

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