HUCTW Rallies for Benefits Changes

Students, local politicians, union members and Agassiz Professor of Zoology Stephen J. Gould joined in an "old-fashioned union rally," in the Old Cambridge Baptist Church last night.

A crowd of approximately 400 people gathered to celebrate past successes of the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers (HUCTW) with balloons and music.

Yet the current debate on cuts to workers' health and retirement benefits dominated even the most upbeat moments of the rally.

"If the benefits are givin' 'em fits/And they want to save some dough/But they don't know where/So we'll tell them where to go," sang the Pipets, HUCTW's official a capella group.

During the rally, HUCTW leaders said they were particularly concerned about an increase of more than 100 percent in the cost of some health plans and an additional $10 fee for each doctor's visit, both of which are scheduled to take effect next year.


Bill Jaeger, the director of HUCTW, said that HUCTW was "vigorously pursuing" modification of those two elements of the current benefits package.

"On the co-payment, we're seeking a separate policy for children's visits, and a cap or annual dollar limit on any staff member's co-payments," Jaeger said. "On [the health plans], we're looking for temporary, one-year financial relief or assistance."

Richard J. Anderson, a HUCTW member who attended the rally, said he hopes HUCTW is successful in its efforts to reduce the co-payment for pediatric visits.

"For every one visit an adult goes--[children] have four or five," Anderson said. "Their visits are gen- erally short and quick so costs aren't as high."

Anderson's sentiments were echoed by Gould, who said that 25 years ago, when his two children were young, the co-payment would also have been a vital issue for his family.

"That co-payment would have been an enormous burden," Gould said. "We often forget how our constituencies have different concerns."

Alteration of co-payments and decreases in health-plan costs are not the only changes to the current benefits package that HUCTW hopes to make.

"Pension plan changes scheduled for the middle of next year need rethinking," Jacger said. "And the University's horrible idea about doubling health and dental insurance premiums for part-time workers in 1997 needs complete eradication."

Discussion of benefits between the University and HUCTW is taking place in the Joint Committee on Benefits (JCB), which was created as part of the contract HUCTW officially approved in September.

HUCTW officials praise the tenor of the discourse within the JCB thus far.

"To me, the best reason to celebrate tonight is that we finally have a healthy negotiating process underway on the benefits," Jacger said. "Over the next few years, there are many problems we want to fix and ideas we want to explore in the new Joint Committee on Benefits," Jacger said.