Quick, Before the Ink Dries

LABOR

Lucky Harvard. The University Printing Office can now continue happily churning out its usual mass of bureaucratic paraphernalia, undisturbed by labor problems.

The workers who help print and bind these voluminous publications have just ratified--by a very close vote--a new contract.

The two-year agreement, which gained the approval of the members of locals 300 and 16B of the Graphic Arts International Thursday at noon, came after a week of "heated discussion" that included strike proposals, a union source said Thursday.

The contract offers a moderate wage increase and better vacation benefits, but many of the union members said they wanted to hold out for a fatter wage increase.

The workers said they gave in because many believed they could not attempt another strike, while others feared reprisals from the University--such as a decision to subcontract out the work to non-union laborers. The lithographers, photo-engravers and bookbinders who make up the union have struck Harvard twice in the past seven years over wage increases.

Edward W. Powers, associate general counsel for employee relations, said Thursday that although Harvard subcontracts much of its printing work because it costs less, the University is not now considering eliminating union printing work.

So, there is a temporary truce between the University and the graphics workers. But the tone of the ratification discussions indicates the University and the union will continue to eye each other warily.