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Q & A on recent union protest

(Members of the Research, Development and Technical Employees Union (RDTEU), which is conducting negotiations for a new contract, leafleted members of the MIT community last Wednesday to protest layoffs. Below are questions raised by news reporters after seeing the union leaflet, and answers provided last week by the MIT News Office.)

Q: The union says MIT calls it reengineering, but they say it's just privatization and another word for unemployment. What about that?

A: In November 1993, President Vest held a town meeting and announced that MIT would embark on a reengineering effort designed to improve administrative services which support MIT's fundamental missions of teaching and research. The idea was to simplify our administrative processes, improve the quality of the services, and significantly reduce costs. There will be times when outsourcing may be the most effective answer.

Q: How much do you expect to save?

A: MIT hopes to save $40 million, about 10 percent of the basic budget (without counting research). The overall MIT budget is $1.1 billion and includes $700 million of research.

Q: The union says 200 people it represents have been laid off. Is that right?

A: The number of RDTEU layoffs is about 70 since January 1994. The 15 RDTEU members in the Office of Laboratory Supplies (OLS) are the only RDTEU layoffs because of reengineering. The rest of the layoffs are from the research staff, which has a constant ebb and flow depending on research funding. People who take research jobs know that when the research funds end, the job ends.

Q: What has happened to the 15 RDTEU people at OLS?

A: Of the 15, there is one junior employee, at MIT just 8 months, who is still seeking a job. Nine people were hired by MIT for other positions, one went to the new contractor, one went out on long-term disability and three retired. The MIT pension plan is comparable and, in most cases, better than pensions for similar jobs elsewhere.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on September 13, 1995.

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