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Unions, Contractors Agree on Parity Policy

By Joseph P. Flood, Crimson Staff Writer

Negotiators for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 254 and two Harvard subcontractors signed a contract to institute higher wages and additional benefits for outsourced janitors that match those of Harvard janitors yesterday.

The recommendations of the Harvard Committee on Employment and Contracting Policies (HCECP), adopted largely by University President Lawrence H. Summers in January, required that “parity” be established between the wages of Harvard employees and subcontracted workers with similar jobs.

According to HCECP’s final report, in the past Harvard had lowered wages for its janitors by threatening to outsource their jobs to lower-paid subcontracted employees. The “parity” provision was designed to stop this practice in the future.

SEIU Deputy Trustee Rocio Saenz said that subcontracted janitors should see the wage increases in their paychecks by the end of the month.

“They’re talking between two and three weeks [when] workers will be able see it happen,” Saenz said.

Harvard’s Associate Vice President for Human Resources Polly Price said that new wages for outsourced janitors will also be retroactive to last spring, as they are for Harvard janitors. Price said this back pay has already been sent to Harvard janitors and that subcontracted employees would receive theirs soon.

Yesterday’s agreement comes nearly a month and a half after Harvard-employed janitors ratified a contract which gave them at least $11.35 per hour.

Saenz said that yesterday’s negotiations focused largely on adapting language from the Harvard janitors’ contract to each subcontractor, and were easily negotiated.

“We came in today with the expectation that this would be over—there was no more to it than just getting it done,” Saenz said.

Any changes in wages or benefits for unionized employees require negotiation with the union, even in the case of hikes in compensation.

Saenz also said that the protest staged by the Progressive Student Labor Movement in front of the Holyoke Center last week to put pressure on UNICCO to settle their contract with SEIU assisted SEIU in the negotiations.

Saenz also said that with UNICCO, the largest employer of subcontracted workers at Harvard, coming to an agreement with SEIU, Harvard’s other contractors will quickly follow suit.

“We think it will happen with everybody,” said Saenz. “Workers feel very happy with their victory, and we are continuing to move forward.”

Staff writer Joseph P. Flood can be reached at flood@fas.harvard.edu.

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