Custodians Protest Cuts in the Number of Hours Worked

A delegation of three custodians have lodged a protest Thursday over what they are calling “unnecessary” cuts in the number of hours worked.

The building manager was not in his office to receive the delegation.

Although the cuts were originally instituted in 2009, Thursday’s delegation was formed in response to the building manager’s request to reinstate some custodial hours on the morning shift without giving back extra hours on the evening shift.

Members of SEIU Local 615, the union that represents Harvard custodial workers, said that the current hours plan is unsustainable.

“We feel that the reduced hour schedule is an unnecessary hardship on workers,” said Matthew Gulish, a member of SEIU Local 615. “It’s great that the building manager wants to reinstate the earlier hours, but we think the quality of the work would improve if he also reinstated the evening hours.”

Gulish said that the current system of reduced hours is an unfair and unmanageable strain on workers.

“People are getting paid less but are being pushed to work even harder than they have had to before,” Gulish said.

Guilsh also said that the significant gains in the endowment are adding to the union’s dissatisfaction with the current hours. The endowment gained 21.4 percent for fiscal year 2011, bringing its value up to $32 billion.

“We have felt even since the recession began that Harvard still has the resources to keep people employed and that none of these cuts are necessary,” Gulish said. “The new report has strengthened our argument. They’ve always had the money and the new report just reinforced that.”

Although the building manager was not in his office, Guilsh said that the mission was still a success.

“He wasn’t in his office, but it is important that we showed unity amongst ourselves,” Gulish said. “We plan on coming back until we can see the manager and get this issue resolved.”

The University declined to comment.

The complaint comes as Harvard custodians are negotiating a new contract with the University. One of the focal points of the campaign is increasing the number of hours and full time jobs for Harvard custodians. Leaders of Local 615 say that the protest should not negatively effect the negotiations.

This complaint also comes just as Harvard labor officials are preparing to present the findings of an investigation into reportedly “discriminatory” practices toward Harvard Law School custodians.

—Staff writer Mercer R. Cook can be reached at mcook@college.harvard.edu

This story has been revised to reflect the following corrections.

CORRECTION: OCT. 16, 2011

The Oct. 14 article "Custodians Protest Cuts in the Number of Hours Worked" mistakenly identified UNICO as the contractor that provides custodians to the Divinity School. It is, in fact, Facilities Maintenance Operations. Additionally, the story misstated the number of custodians in the delegation. It was three, not ten.

CORRECTION: OCT. 18, 2011

The Oct. 14 aricle "Custodians Protest Cuts in the Number of Hours Worked" incorrectly stated that a delegation of Harvard custodians had lodged a protest against cuts in the number of hours worked at the Divinity School. But the Divinity School was not, in fact, a target of the complaint.

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