University Comments on Contract Negotiations

The University released an update on its ongoing contract negotiations with the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers Tuesday afternoon, detailing its position on the overdue contract. The statement was released on Harvard’s labor relations website, and in a letter sent by Marilyn Hausammann, the vice president for human resources, to administrative deans and vice presidents.

Harvard and HUCTW, which represents more than 4,600 of the University’s non-faculty staff, were scheduled to ratify a new contract on July 1. Due to disagreements on issues such as salary increases and health benefits, negotiations have dragged on into the fall. In late September, HUCTW Director Bill Jaeger told The Crimson that there had been “no significant progress” recently.

Hausammann’s letter cited the extended period of negotiations as a reason for the University statement. Though the University typically does not discuss ongoing negotiations “out of respect for the collective bargaining process,” the letter said, “it’s important to share with you details about some of the issues on the table and to dispel several mischaracterizations of the University’s position.”

The letter argued that the wages and benefits of HUCTW members are better than 75 percent of workers in comparable positions in greater Boston, and that HUCTW is asking for salary increases that far exceed what other union and non-union workers are receiving, despite the “global economic downturn” and the University’s diminished endowment.

According to the letter, the union’s proposed health benefits plan would move the burden of over $1.5 million in health care costs of employees making less than $50,000 per year onto higher earners. “That did not meet our test for a fair and equitable agreement,” Hausammann wrote.

According to the letter, the University proposed a contract that included a 2.8 percent wage increase in the first year, along with adjustable raises in subsequent years, in late September. “More than two weeks later, the union leaders have yet to make a counter offer,” Hausammann wrote.

The University remains committed to reaching an agreement that is fair for both sides, the letter stated, but Harvard is “preparing for the bargaining process to continue for some time.”

Hausammann did not return requests for comment.

Jaeger said that publicizing specific economic plans was unusual and counterproductive.

“I don’t think that’s the right way to negotiate,” he said. “This doesn’t make it impossible to keep going and keep trying to find a way to reach a constructive agreement—it just makes it harder.”

Harvard’s Director of News and Media Relations Kevin Galvin declined to comment on Jaeger’s claim.

Jaeger also said that the University’s allegation that the union is not offering solutions to the stalled negotiations is “simply not true.”

“We have very recently put forward very detailed proposals which are trying to break the logjam by working with the idea of connecting wage increases to the rate of inflation,” Jaeger said. “I don’t really know what the University spokespeople are talking about.”

He disputed the letter’s claim that the University is still suffering from the economic recession, referencing the Faculty of Arts and Science’s financial report for the 2012 fiscal year as evidence. It is “a terrific indicator of just how solidly prosperity is returning to the University,” he said.

“Everything that’s coming out about the University’s financial situation would suggest happy days,” Jaeger said.

—Staff writer Samuel Y. Weinstock can be reached at sweinstock@college.harvard.edu.

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