Contract negotiations between the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers and the University that began in early April failed to reach an agreement by July 1, the day after the old contract was set to expire.
According to a letter from the union’s executive board and organizing staff to its members, the old contract, which went into effect on July 1 of last year, will remain in place until the negotiating parties reach an agreement.
“We’re disappointed and determined at the same time,” HUCTW Director Bill Jaeger said. “Our union has been trying to approach the negotiations in a serious, vigorous, constructive way, and we’ll keep trying that.... It’s a frustration that we haven’t finished on time, but it’s not a tragedy.”
The letter to HUCTW members—a group including more than 4,600 non-faculty staff at Harvard—expressed the union leaders’ resolve to reach an agreement that is favorable for workers.
“Although it can be hard to maintain momentum on the Harvard campus in the summer months, HUCTW leaders are strongly committed to utilizing all of the organizational energy and creativity necessary to reach a fair and progressive new agreement as quickly as possible,” the letter said.
Harvard University spokesman John D. Longbrake declined to comment on the specifics of the negotiations but wrote in an emailed statement to The Crimson that the negotiations have been productive so far and that the University is optimistic that negotiators will come up with a contract that is beneficial for both parties.
The letter listed three areas in which reaching an agreement had been particularly difficult—a salary increase program, health care, and the bargaining unit, which involves deciding which jobs are “exempt” and can or cannot be included in the union.
Jaeger said that the union leadership has noticed “growing frustration and concern” among its members, but that they have received “great input” and are confident that they are moving in the right direction.
“There’s a lot of strong feeling among our membership about economic issues—about raises and about health care,” Jaeger said. “I think our members would rather have the right agreement than a quick agreement.”
A failure for the union and Harvard to agree on a new contract on time is not unprecedented. Jaeger said that the one of the longest delays occurred when the contract that was scheduled to be ratified on July 1, 1992, was not agreed upon until the following January.
This year, both sides seem hopeful that another six months of negotiations will not be necessary.
“On the one hand, the issues are tough,” Jaeger said. “On the other hand, we’re a really good union and this is a great university, and there are things we ought to be able to figure out. So we’re going to keep working hard.”
—Staff writer Samuel Y. Weinstock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.