Mostly Quiet On Labor Front

It was quiet this year on the labor front--almost silent, in fact. The University fashioned a contract proposal with a catchy nickname: the "10-9-8," signifying a three-year deal with successive 10-, 9- and 8-per-cent wage increases.

One by one, Harvard's unions lined up to drive the best bargain possible with the administration, and one by one they settled for the much-heralded 10-9-8.

On the surface, it seemed simple--the Harvard University Employees Representative Association (representing custodians and guards), the Maintenance Trade Council (electricians, carpenters and painters), the Harvard University Police Association, and Local 26 of the Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Union (dining hall employees) all swallowed the 10-9-8 with little ado.

But Harvard does not exactly enjoy the reputation of a warm, sympathetic employer. Many University workers resent the attitude of the administrators toward negotiations, as embodied by Edward W. Powers, associate general counsel for employee relations and the University's principal negotiator: "Harvard is primarily an educational institution, and it's a shame to drain off financial resources unnecessarily to support services."

Powers, who has been through many protracted negotiations at Harvard, attributes the absence of significant disputes this year to the generosity of the University's offer in relation to the presidential wage guidelines and the contracts forwarded by comparable institutions.

Several workers, however, feel the minimal improvements in fringe benefits which accompanies the 10-9-8 are insufficient to cope with present economic conditions. "At least you can hold onto benefits; money doesn't mean anything any more," one Building and Grounds worker said.

And despite the University's adeptness at exacting the precise settlement it favored without considerable wrangling, preliminary rumbling sounds are being emitted from the Medical Area, where District 65, Distributive Workers of America, are again trying to unionize clerical and technical workers.

District 65's initial attempt to organize at the Med Area in 1977 resulted in a prolonged, heated battle with the University, which eventually stymied the union's efforts. But District 65 organizers insist they are better prepared this time.