While he thinks a task force's changes in Harvard's benefit system are laudable, the alterations have generated concern and will be an issue during contract renegotiations for the Union of Clerical and Technical Workers (HUCTW), President Neil L. Rudenstine said this week.
The changes, announced in June, include, among other significant differences, pegging Harvard's contributions to health insurance premiums to a percentage of the lowest-cost health plans available, pro-rating to some degree health benefits for parttime employees and slightly lowering the University's annual contribution to the faculty pension plan.
The administration expects to save about $10 million yearly from the changes.
Rudenstine praised the work of the task force.
"Given the complexity of the issue and the tasks to be done it was about as through and thoughtful and fair and equitable a result as one really could hoped for," he said. "As a total package it's about as thoughtful as I could have hoped for."
Rudenstine said that he personally had received only two letters about the changes, but said that most who had concerns would be more likely to communicate them through other channels.
He said that while there has been a fair amount of concern regarding the charges in faculty pensions, so far only the Law School has set up a formal committee to deal with inquiries and explanations.
But Rudenstine said that those who seem to be providing the most feedback are part-time workers.
"In terms of the overall trajectory in respect to pensions and everything else it seemed the most equitable thing we could do," he said. "[But] I think the people who have been most concerned have been the parttimers."
Donene M. Williams, president of HUCTW, also said that part-time workers seem to have been hit hardest by the upcoming changes--although she differed with Rudenstine in her opinion of the plan's equitability.
"This set of changes is just such a
hostile attack on part-time workers acrosscampus," Williams said. "This is something I justcan't comprehend. I never thought the Universitywould do something this mean."
She said that the union, whose benefits are setby prior contract and thus unaffected by thechanges right away, has been holding informationalmeetings about the changes around the campus.
William said that she expects the University to"push as hard as it can" to get HUCTW to acceptthe full set of benefits changes when its contractwith Harvard expires next June.
"Everyone on campus assumes they did it to theexempts to get a head start," she said. "We'recertainly not going to accept the changes becausethey say it's more consistent....We'll continue totake the stand applying to negotiations that wealways have."