Laid-Off Guards Are Guaranteed New Jobs

Union negotiates settlement for several Harvard employees

The seven Harvard University security guards who will be laid off June 30 were guaranteed employment, job counseling services and a choice of a severance or retirement package at a meeting with University officials last Friday.  

Merry Touborg, a spokesperson for the Office of Human Resources, said that the seven remaining in-house guards will all be guaranteed on-campus jobs with Allied Security, Harvard’s largest contractor.

Danny Meagher, the President of the Harvard University Security, Parking and Museum Guards Union (HUSPMGU), which negotiated the settlement with the University on behalf of the seven guards, said that the University has told the workers that there will be no changes in their wages or benefits if they move to Allied Security.

Meagher, who was present at the meeting on Friday, said that workers may also choose to remain Harvard employees by taking cleaning and maintenance jobs at Harvard’s science labs.

Touborg said that workers can receive free job counseling and resume help from an employment firm if they decide to look for a different job.

Touborg declined to reveal the provisions of the severance and retirement packages, but said that they were “generous” and will be based on the number of years the worker had served at Harvard.

She said that the layoffs were made at the decision of the Harvard University Police Department (HUPD) to ensure that its operating budgets—like all operating budgets of departments within the University’s central administration—sees zero percent growth in 2005.

Once HUSPMGU members recognized HUPD would need to make the cuts, they approached the University to bargain packages for the guards, Touborg said.

Meagher said that the severance package will offer the guards two weeks of pay for every year of service.

“It’s a terrible thing to get laid off, but they got the best package going at this University,” Meagher said. “I’ve never seen a layoff where they negotiated for the workers and had guaranteed immediate employment with no loss of pay or benefits.”

Peter Skillman, one of the five guards present at Friday’s meeting, said that he will be deciding between the buyout and retirement options based upon which package gives him a better financial deal.

“I didn’t want to go out like this, but that’s what’s happening,” said Skillman, who has worked at Harvard for 31 years. “I’ll look at the packages they give me, but if it’s not good I’m screwed. I’m not really happy about what they’re doing, but if we fight they’re not going to give us any help.”

Workers were told that they will receive packages containing the details of all of their options in the mail early this week.

Touborg said that these layoffs are a part of restructuring changes in the central administration. The University announced 60 layoffs in central administration last February.

“All of central administration is having to find a way to have a zero percent increase for [Fiscal Year] 2005,” Touborg said. “People were asked to look at things strategically and not just financially...Is this the most effective way to do business?”

The number of in-house security guards has steadily decreased since last year.

Last June, an optional buyout package reduced the number of workers from 17 to the current seven. At the time, University officials expressed a desire to move to a single contractor in the security sector for increased efficiency.

Touborg suggested that these recent layoffs may also be a product of this strategy.

“We do have a lot of trouble,” Touborg said yesterday. “They’re so scattered that it’s hard to oversee them.”

Daniel DiMaggio ’04, a member of the Progressive Students’ Labor Movement (PSLM) and the No Layoffs Campaign, said that Harvard’s decision to eliminate the unionized security guard positions was “sick” and “pretty disturbing.”

“In all of their options the guards will be left without a union,” Dimaggio said. “The University has told these workers that they will take their union from them.”

“[University officials] say that they have to move to one security vendor, but it’s no coincidence that it’s a non-union company.”

Allied Security, Harvard’s largest security vendor, is a non-unionized company.

Meagher credited DiMaggio and the PSLM for helping HUSPMGU preserve the jobs of the seven workers last summer.

“These jobs would have been cut last July if it wasn’t for Dan DiMaggio and the PSLM and the protest they organized,” Meagher said.

DiMaggio, who participated in PSLM’s Mass. Hall sit-in in April 2001, said that this “shows the value of organizing protests and rallies against Harvard in support of campus workers and unions.”

“I think that Harvard is only afraid when workers fight back and when workers and students join to fight its attack.”

—Staff writer May Habib can be reached at habib@fas.harvard.edu.