The complaint of the anonymous Securitas worker, Langley said, is not unusual, but because those complaints are not related to a worker’s employment contract, there is often little that the worker and the union can do in response.
Instead, for all employees, officially filed grievances must relate to a violation of certain articles of their employment contract, such as stipulations related to vacation, medical insurance, or wages, not management rights, which concern the employer’s actions outside of the contract.
Langley said that most officially filed grievances are resolved quickly because they relate to explicit portions of the contract.
For other complaints, he said that SEIU Local 615 does its best to petition Securitas management about worker issues, whether or not they are labeled as official grievances. With transfers that the union suspects are punitive, Langley said that the union requires a letter from Securitas stating why the contracted employee was moved or, if applicable, a statement from an involved Harvard affiliate. Both Langley and Jaeger said that if they discover a trend of transferring employees of the same gender or race, they can bring that information to Harvard and start an investigation.
Since these complaints are not officially filed, the union does not track their exact frequency, according to Langley. However, Langley said that the number of official grievances is far fewer than the number of total complaints. At a point in mid-November, Langley said that SEIU Local 615 was addressing twelve ongoing grievances and many more complaints.
Alasti said that he has heard stories of contract workers being passed up for positions which they were qualified for in terms of capability and experience—a case in which an in-house employee would have grounds to appeal.
“But due to a whim,” he said, “which is all you can call it, with the facility manager involved, they were denied that position.”
Alasti said that he and his colleagues would not be able to file an official grievance with Securitas, but could only file an informal complaint to the company which he described as a less effective option. Of the process for contract workers, Alasti said, “that’s the end of it.”
Moreover, Alasti said that employees often feel that the risks of voicing their concerns may outweigh the benefits.
“It's not worthwhile for our people to be making targets of themselves,” he said.
When contract workers have conflicts of personality with their Harvard supervisors, the management of companies like Securitas are more likely to transfer the employee without pressing for further information from the supervisor. According to union leaders, this is a result of their desire to maintain a positive working relationship with their client, Harvard. This dynamic does not exist for direct employees of Harvard, resulting in a less complicated employee-supervisor relationship.
When contacted about appeals and complaints processes, the Harvard Human Resources Department referred requests for comment to Harvard Public Affairs and Communications. DeLuzuriaga released a statement emphasizing that negotiations are handled by the direct employer, not Harvard, writing in January that “the vast majority of contract employees are represented by collective bargaining units, who negotiate contracts covering the terms and conditions of employment with their employer, not Harvard.“
Thomas R. Fagan, Vice President of Human Resources and Administration at the Securitas Northeast office, declined to comment for this story, saying that he could not discuss “client-specific matters.”