Beyond administering and enforcing the Commonwealth’s collective bargaining laws, the Department of Labor Relations offers a number of services to public sector employers and their represented employees to further the agency’s goal of promoting stable, productive and cooperative relationships between these groups.

Many of the DLR’s services, such as the adjudication of unfair labor practice cases, are familiar to public employers. The agency investigates charges and either dismisses them, defers them to arbitration under the parties’ collective bargaining agreement, refers them to mediation at the DLR, or issues a complaint or a partial dismissal.

Less widely known are the mediation and arbitration services offered by the DLR. Parties pay $300 for grievance mediation and may use the service even if a collective bargaining agreement sets forth a different forum for an ensuing arbitration. Mediation has the benefit of saving arbitration fees if the parties are able to settle a grievance.

For arbitration, parties pay a flat fee of $1,000, with no extra fee for writing time. DLR Director Philip Roberts said that parties appreciate the predictable process of arbitration proceedings at the DLR, and that the DLR’s hearing officers are familiar with case law and labor relations. Using the DLR for arbitrations is often written into collective bargaining agreements.

The agency also determines whether a position is properly included or excluded from an existing bargaining unit through unit clarification petitions, and it houses the Joint Labor Management Committee, which assists in resolving collective bargaining disputes between municipalities and police officers and firefighters.

The Commonwealth Employment Relations Board is also part of the DLR and operates as the agency’s appellate body for probable cause determinations, hearing officer decisions, and representation case decisions.

The Massachusetts Public Employee Collective Bargaining Law Guide, available on the DLR’s website, offers a wealth of information, including a history of public employee collective bargaining in Massachusetts, FAQs, procedures for the various DLR services, and a summary of Massachusetts labor relations law.

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