Contract negotiations between SEIU Local 615, the union that represents Harvard security guards, and Securitas, the contractor for security guards, took a dramatic turn this week when SEIU leadership criticized the new health care plan proposed by Securitas, saying the plan would cost workers more, and provide them less care.
The security guards’ current contract expires next Friday.
According to Local 615 Director for Higher Education Wayne M. Langley, guards currently are provided full health care coverage, but Securitas’ proposed plan would only offer partial coverage.
He also noted that even though the plan does not provide as many benefits to workers, it is actually more expensive, costing them between $200 and $500 per month.
“With this plan, we are getting less in the way of health benefits while paying more,” Langley said. “We don’t understand why they made this proposal—it’s not better for anyone.”
Other leaders within SEIU—the Service Employees International Union—said that they view Securitas’ proposed health care plan as unacceptable.
“The fact that Securitas is trying to take away some of the health benefits, people are saying that’s just non-negotiable,” said SEIU publicist Nancy B. Kohn. “Members are angry about the way Securitas is bargaining.”
Harvard declined to comment on the contract negotiations, while Securitas did not immediately respond for comment.
Langley said that the health care proposal shook up what had been a relatively uneventful contract negotiation, which have now taken a “confrontational tone.”
According to union leaders, there are a number of possible outcomes if the union and Securitas are not able to come to an agreement before next Friday.
“Option number one is to let the contract expire,” Langley said. “Option two is file an extension. Option three is to take some sort of action, like a strike. Which of those happens depends a lot on what happens on the next four [bargaining] days.”
Kohn said any course of action will also depend on the sentiment of SEIU membership.
“The negotiating committee really doesn’t want to get ahead of the members,” she said.
In addition to health care, the Union is stressing several other key issues in the negotiations, the largest of which are full-time employment and increased educational benefits for security guards.
“Full-time work supports a family, and allows you to spend time with your family,” Langley said.
He added that workers employed directly by the University are able to take free or discounted classes through Harvard and associated colleges, and that SEIU wants this same right for security guards employed through Securitas.
“We want no second class citizens at Harvard,” Langley said.
—Staff writer Mercer R. Cook can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CORRECTION: SEPT. 14, 2011
An earlier version of the Sept. 14 story "Union Rejects Securitas Health Care Proposal" included a headline that incorrectly described the proposed health care plan as a University plan when, in fact, the proposal was made by the private security firm Securitas.