Harvard Police May Strike for Contract
Negotiations With University at Standstill
As thousands of alumni and dignitaries convened for the University's 350th celebration two weeks ago, Harvard's in-house policemen's union embarked on a publicity campaign in an effort to break the logjam that has stalled their seven-month-old contract negotiations.
Future union activity, if a contract is not settled soon, could also take the shape of an illegal job action or strike, union officials said this weekend.
Labor negotiations came to a standstill late last month after intensive discussions, which union and University representatives called slow but normal, concluded with an unproductive mediated meeting. The two sides have not met since then but expect new negotiations in the presence of federal and state mediators to begin as soon as they can be scheduled.
The 40-member independent Harvard University Police Association (HUPA) has operated under an interim contract since December 31, 1985, when the old contract expired.
In an effort to gain support from the Harvard community, the union plastered kiosks, dormitories and walls across the College campus and the graduate schools with 2000 leaflets and ran an open letter advertisement to President Derek C. Bok in four issues of The Crimson during the week of festivities.
The publicity campaign, which has cost the union 12 percent of its annual revenues, marked a change in tactics forced by University "stalling," union executives said.
"We thought we weren't getting any place, and we had to become more active and seek the assistance of the Harvard community--Harvard faculty, students and alumni," union vice-president Jack N. Parentau said.
"Anything we feel that we must do, we'll do. We're not shutting anything out," he added, listing a strike, a job action or an intensified publicity campaign as options. Any concerted action that interferes with the operation of the University would break the interim contract.
"We're waiting to see what happens at the next mediation meeting," Parentau said.
Union officials declined to specify further how a future course might be chosen or what shape future action might take, saying that that would compromise their bargaining position.
"The principal stumbling block" left is what Parentau called the University's rejection of the union's major demand, dubbed "the four and two work week," which would increase the frequency with which day's-off are rotated.
The University disputes this assessment of its bargaining position, saying that they have always been flexible and that the "four and two work week" would tacitly increase the number of vacation days per year by 17 and cause a 7 percent increase in costs, said Director of Administration and Associate General Counsel for Employee Relations Edward W. Powers.
A union counterproposal that would extend each patrolman's shift by half an hour and thereby make up roughly 15 of the 17 lost days in hours was termed inadequate by the University because the need for extra manpower is not currently an issue, said Powers, the University's frontline union negotiator.
Parentau said that a different conclusion might be reached if Chief of Police Paul E. Johnson attended the negotiation meetings. Johnson could not be reached for comment.
Deputy Chief of Police Jack W. Morse would not comment on the pending negotiations or the man-power question, which he said could have a bearing on the negotiations.
"The proposals they have on the table are outrageous," said Powers.
"I have never characterized our proposals as final, and we're willing to look at other universities and propose a package that is very comparable," he added.
Union officials said, however, that the University has stretched negotiations out in the past until the question of retroactive pay became a significant issue.
"Mr. Powers historically says, `This is my final offer. If you don't sign now you won't get retroactive monies,'" Parentau said. "It weakens the association [HUPA] because people see large sums of money going out of the window."