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Dining Services Union, Harvard Ink 5-Year Deal

By Todd F. Braunstein

The University inked an unprecedented five-year deal with its dining services workers last week, ending weeks of tense negotiations and narrowly averting a strike.

Picketers set to hit the streets had to be called off last Wednesday when the pact was sealed just hours before the contract was due to expire and a strike to begin.

Both sides said they were pleased with the deal.

"It looks wonderful," said Michael E. Finklea, a general cook at the School of Public Health and a 12-year employee at Harvard. "I'm really really pleased with it.... We have a very good contract for five years--better job security and better wages."

Although Harvard Director of Labor Relations Timothy R. Manning could not be reached for comment, he hailed the new deal as a "departure from traditional bargaining" in a statement released yesterday.

Perhaps the most unusual aspect of the new deal is its length. The five-year pact is the longest in the 60 years that Harvard's dining services workers have been unionized, according to Domenic M. Bozzotto, president of Hotel Workers Local 26, which represents the 554 dining services employees. Normally, dining services workers sign three-year deals, Bozzotto said.

The five year deal offers enhanced job security for the dining services workers, who said they were flabbergasted that the University agreed to such a long contract.

"Why would they have done it? We're still in the dark on that one," Finklea said.

Union leaders also said that the University conceded on the major sticking point in the negotiations: its attempts to gain more flexibility in hiring non-union, non-local workers, who are less expensive than members of the union.

Instead, the union and the University have established a Standing Joint Labor/Management Committee for Dining Services. The committee will seek innovative ways to make Harvard Dining Services (HDS) more efficient, so the operation can stay competitive without contracting out, according to union officials.

"The establishment of a formal mechanism for ongoing dialogue is very much in keeping with Harvard's labor relations philosophy," Manning said in the statement. "It takes some important issues out of the often contentious arena of contract negotiations and creates a longer term process by which managers and workers can work together to their mutual benefit."

Union leaders had reacted angrily to the possibility that the University would use non-union subcontractors.

Earlier this month, Bozzotto told The Crimson that there would be a strike unless the University pulled subcontracting off the table. Indeed, dining services workers had struck in 1983 and 1986 over that very issue.

Bozzotto praised Manning for finding a creative way around the impasse.

"What he did was take this stone on our shoe that we were going to strike over, and...what he really did was bring some innovative language to the table," Bozzotto said. "Remember we've had two strikes over this stuff, and if they had negotiated the way they used to, there would have been a third."

Other highlights of the contract include:

* Wage increases for each of the contract's five years. Dining services workers will enjoy a $0.40/hour raise in the first year, a $0.35/hour increase in the second year, and a $0.30/hour increase in each of the contract's final three years.

* An expanded use of sick days for dining services workers. The workers can now use three of the days for family emergencies, in addition to their own illnesses.

* Language guaranteeing that all disciplinary notices are sent to the union. Union members said this change brings more stability to the grievance procedure. "[Workers] feel a little more secure that way," Bozzotto said. "They don't have to worry about managers trying to stuff their personnel files."

* Language saying that the University will aggressively encourage workers to seek promotions. The University will offer information on how workers can advance within Harvard, Bozzotto said.

* The establishment of several long-range committees. The University and the union will have new vehicles to explore seniority and how it should be applied in selecting workers for summer jobs; the overlap between the benefits offered for sick days and for short-term disabilities; and work rules, with the aim of fostering cooperation and making sure that the dining halls keep pace with technological advancements.

Turnaround

Before the final round of negotiations began on June 19, union leaders had been preparing for the worst. All along, union leaders had accused Manning of refusing to bargain in good faith.

And Bozzotto, who described both himself and his union as "confrontational," said he was anticipating a strike. In fact, union leaders were so sure that a shutdown was on the way that they had already given picketing and civil disobedience assignments to workers in the union for the day after negotiations.

But Manning made what Finklea termed a "360-degree turnaround" at the final round on June 19 at the Local 26 offices on Berkeley Street.

"Sometimes people's egos get in their way with negotiation," Bozzotto said. "What he did was in a sense check his ego at the door and really filter through the pros and cons of all the issues that were raised, and then come up with ways that it could be settled."

Bozzotto, who has served as president of Local 26 for 15 years, said Manning brought a rare innovative twist to the contract negotiations.

"He brought this new dynamic to the table," Bozzotto said. "I'd love to say it was me, that I was the new dynamic. And maybe that's because he comes from a different background. Evidently, he didn't have all the baggage all the previous labor relations people had at Harvard."

The dining services contract is only the latest in a string of bargaining successes for Manning. While Harvard has historically been rife with labor strife, Manning has, in the first round of new contracts since his arrival at Harvard, managed to ink deals with the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers (HUCTW) and the police union without a strike. Both of those unions had proved contentious in negotiating their previous contracts

Union leaders had reacted angrily to the possibility that the University would use non-union subcontractors.

Earlier this month, Bozzotto told The Crimson that there would be a strike unless the University pulled subcontracting off the table. Indeed, dining services workers had struck in 1983 and 1986 over that very issue.

Bozzotto praised Manning for finding a creative way around the impasse.

"What he did was take this stone on our shoe that we were going to strike over, and...what he really did was bring some innovative language to the table," Bozzotto said. "Remember we've had two strikes over this stuff, and if they had negotiated the way they used to, there would have been a third."

Other highlights of the contract include:

* Wage increases for each of the contract's five years. Dining services workers will enjoy a $0.40/hour raise in the first year, a $0.35/hour increase in the second year, and a $0.30/hour increase in each of the contract's final three years.

* An expanded use of sick days for dining services workers. The workers can now use three of the days for family emergencies, in addition to their own illnesses.

* Language guaranteeing that all disciplinary notices are sent to the union. Union members said this change brings more stability to the grievance procedure. "[Workers] feel a little more secure that way," Bozzotto said. "They don't have to worry about managers trying to stuff their personnel files."

* Language saying that the University will aggressively encourage workers to seek promotions. The University will offer information on how workers can advance within Harvard, Bozzotto said.

* The establishment of several long-range committees. The University and the union will have new vehicles to explore seniority and how it should be applied in selecting workers for summer jobs; the overlap between the benefits offered for sick days and for short-term disabilities; and work rules, with the aim of fostering cooperation and making sure that the dining halls keep pace with technological advancements.

Turnaround

Before the final round of negotiations began on June 19, union leaders had been preparing for the worst. All along, union leaders had accused Manning of refusing to bargain in good faith.

And Bozzotto, who described both himself and his union as "confrontational," said he was anticipating a strike. In fact, union leaders were so sure that a shutdown was on the way that they had already given picketing and civil disobedience assignments to workers in the union for the day after negotiations.

But Manning made what Finklea termed a "360-degree turnaround" at the final round on June 19 at the Local 26 offices on Berkeley Street.

"Sometimes people's egos get in their way with negotiation," Bozzotto said. "What he did was in a sense check his ego at the door and really filter through the pros and cons of all the issues that were raised, and then come up with ways that it could be settled."

Bozzotto, who has served as president of Local 26 for 15 years, said Manning brought a rare innovative twist to the contract negotiations.

"He brought this new dynamic to the table," Bozzotto said. "I'd love to say it was me, that I was the new dynamic. And maybe that's because he comes from a different background. Evidently, he didn't have all the baggage all the previous labor relations people had at Harvard."

The dining services contract is only the latest in a string of bargaining successes for Manning. While Harvard has historically been rife with labor strife, Manning has, in the first round of new contracts since his arrival at Harvard, managed to ink deals with the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers (HUCTW) and the police union without a strike. Both of those unions had proved contentious in negotiating their previous contracts

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