Since their new contract was inked in September, custodial workers from Harvard Facilities Maintenance Organization (FMO) have been working for wages that are roughly in accord with market prices.
A survey of colleges and universities in the area reveals two tiers of pay scales, however, with some, like Harvard's, hovering at the market wage of about $8 an hour while other schools pay up to $14 an hour.
Harvard's custodial wages have been scaled back in the past few years from such high levels so that FMO wages would be competitive with those of other service providers.
At the same time, many custodial contracts at Harvard have been awarded to outisde contractor UNICCO Service Co.
Under the new contract, full-time FMO custodians earn $8.57 per hour. According to UNICCO documents, UNICCO wages are roughly the same.
Emerson College and Tufts University both compensate their custodians at a level commensurate with Harvard's.
Custodians earn $8.25 per hour at Emerson, according to David Glasar, assistant director of human resources there. Tufts custodial work has been outsourced to UNICCO.
At Boston College, however, full time custodians earn $13.82 per hour, said Maria Cruz of its human resources department.
According to a custodian working at Boston University, full-time custodians there earn $13.20 per hour. Officials from the university would not confirm the wage.
Northeastern College custodians earn $12.81 per hour, said Elizabeth Lopez, compensation/employment administrator in the department of human resources. Lopez added that a new contract will be inked signed July, 1, 1997 in which she expects a wage increase.
To explain Harvard's wages, University officials point to the growing cost of education and the need to keep administrative costs down.
"Unless you manage your expenses well, you are going to put incredible pressure on the cost of education," said Timothy R. Manning, director of labor relations.
"The [goal] here is to continue to provide very good services and treat people well," Manning said.
"If you don't critically review how much that's costing you, at some point you put education at a point where no one will be able to afford to go to school," he said.
Harvard's decisions in paying its employees market wages stem from the University's priority on education, said Merry Touborg, spokesperson for the University.
"The issue is one that brings up questions of which obligations the University choses to place as its highest priority," Touborg said. "There's no question that the academic mission is the highest priority for an institution," she added.
"On this campus, if there are choices to be made, the choices tend to come down on academic mission and preserving it, which is the endowment," Touborg said.
Touborg cited the possibility of different review processes at other schools as a reason for the wage differences.
"Other institutions may be at a different stage in [reviewing their costs], or they may make different choices," Touborg said.
"Harvard has tried to take a middle ground, not to simply outsource and do away with a group of employees, but not to ignore cost pressures either," she added.