Audit Shows Need for More Timely Resolution of Public Employee Labor Disputes

Boston, MA – State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump today is urging the Department of Labor Relations (DLR) to take steps to ensure timely resolution of public employee labor grievance cases. An audit by Bump’s office found in most public employee grievance cases for which case completion time standards had been established, the cases were not completed within those set timeframes. During the audit period (July 1, 2016-June 30, 2018), some of these cases took over 2,500 days to resolve. The report recommends that time standards be established for the resolution of additional types of labor disputes.

The audit found DLR did not have any established time standards for case processing and completion for a number of labor case types, including contract mediation, outside grievance mediation, and representation. The audit notes DLR has only established time standards for three case types – unfair labor practice, grievance arbitration, and clarification/amendment petition cases.

“We urge the Department of Labor Relations to expand its use of time standards and better enforce existing ones,” said Bump. “The delays are typically occasioned by the lawyers litigating these matters, and they negatively impact both the Commonwealth as the employer and the employee or employees seeking relief. The Department should use its powers as referees and facilitators to bring about more speedy resolutions.”

In its response, DLR indicated it will review its workflow processing, evaluate case resources, better consult with stakeholders, develop additional controls to ensure established time standards are met, and where appropriate, establish resolution timeframes.

Finally, the audit also found DLR did not submit its fiscal year 2018 annual report to the legislature on time and its internal control plan was not adequate and had not been updated since 2015. DLR indicated it would take steps to resolve these issues.

The Department of Labor Relations was established in 2007 as a result of legislation that merged the Labor Relations Commission and the Board of Conciliation and Arbitration. The Department’s work is dedicated to adjudicating charges of prohibited practices, including employer discrimination and failure to collectively bargain in good faith. During the audit period, the Department had 15 full-time employees and 10 part-time employees, and in fiscal year 2018 received $2,374,663 in state funding.

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