The Harvard University Guards Union voted almost unanimously to ratify their contract with the University last Friday, ending a three-year stand-off during which the guards had worked without a contract. Even though the contract is the result of three years of negotiations with the University, many guards are not entirely happy with the final product.
"I believe that it was the best job that the Union could do under the circumstances because of [Harvard's] hard line stance," said Stephen McCombe, president of the guards union.
McCombe said many guards are still upset because they have not had a raise since 1996, and with the new contract will not get one for another six years.
Although the guards sought throughout the negotiations to maintain the same benefits that they have had in previous years, they were not successful, and the new contract includes cuts in areas such as sick leave and vacation time.
Many guards said they felt left out of the process and were unhappy with the final product.
"I know nothing about [the contract] and as far as I am concerned, it's not worth the paper it's written on," said one guard.
University officials, however, said they believe the contract is a fair and ethical settlement.
"This is a contract that was negotiated in good faith," said Merry Touborg, director of communications of the Office of Human Rescources.
Touborg said negotiations had been conducted through fair collective bargaining procedures. The guards' representatives bargained with the University, and the union as a whole then ratified the contract.
"That's the process that we have decided is a fair way to proceed," she said.
But many guards said they felt that the contract left their concerns unanswered, including a set of problems they said were created by the lack of communication between the guards and the police department.
"Chief Riley had never met with all of the guards unions as a whole," McCombe said. "He probably doesn't know half the guards in the union. The guards, almost all of them, feel that the chief doesn't care about them."
McCombe said Riley is very focused on implementing community policing programs and has angered many guards by leaving them out of the process.
And he said the police should communicate better with the guards, who he said play an integral role in students' security.
"We're there and present with the students. We care," McCombe said. "This department has to realize that the guards have done community policing for many, many years."
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