Summers Accepts Worker Wage Report

No mandatory wage floor, but wage negotiations will re-open

University President Lawrence H. Summers announced yesterday that he will accept the significant pay hikes recommended by the high-ranking committee convened to examine workers’ wages.

The decision comes nine months after members of the Progressive Student Labor Movement (PSLM) occupied Mass. Hall for three weeks calling for a “living wage” of $10.25 per hour for all Harvard employees.

In keeping with the report released by the Harvard Committee on Employment and Contracting Policies (HCECP) last month, the University will reopen union negotiations to boost wages for the school’s 1,000 lowest-paid service employees to at least $10.83 to $11.30 per hour—but will not implement a mandatory wage floor.

A University-Wide Policy

Summers’ decision applies to each of the University’s individual schools and payment for the increase in wages will come from each of the schools’ budgets.

The committee’s report estimated that overall implementation costs would run between $2.4 and $3.7 million per year. But in an interview yesterday, Summers said that this estimate was “somewhat” low.

He said the cost would be significant, but manageable.

“Based on the issues raised by the committee these are important costs for the University and its constituents to bear,” he said.

Summers has consulted the deans of Harvard’s individual schools to discuss the burdens this decision will place on their budgets.

“I think [the deans] are pretty much settled on having to face up to these costs,”Vice President for Adminstration Sally Zeckhauser said. “I’m not sure they were happy about that.”

Deans were unavailable for comment yesterday.

What Happens Next

The University will also establish a parity wage and benefits policy by March 31, requiring contractors to pay wages and benefits at least equal to those paid to unionized Harvard employees.

In the statement released yesterday, Summers said this policy will “break new ground in defining the relationship between employees and contracted workers doing similar jobs.”

The University’s contract negotiation with Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 254, which represents custodial workers, was reopened two weeks ago and marks the first contract negotiations to take place with the suggested $10.83 minimum pay.

Polly Price, Harvard’s associate vice president for human resources said that once negotiations with SEIU are concluded, negotiations with union for guards, service workers and dining hall employees will be re-opened as called for by Summers.