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Employer of Harvard Security Guards Changes

Workers are hopeful for a smooth transition

By May Habib, Crimson Staff Writer

More than 300 security guards at Harvard are awaiting new uniforms and a new employer as Allied Security prepares to acquire Security Services Inc. (SSI) on March. 19.

The acquisition has yet to be finalized, according to Allied Security spokesperson Larry Rubin.

“We hope that [SSI] will accept the contract as it is written, but there is the possibility of changes,” Rubin said.

But even though the agreement has not been set in stone, some workers are already uneasy about the change.

In a letter sent to its soon-to-be employees last week, Allied Security promised that wages will remain the same and that workers’ seniority at SSI will be transferred to Allied Security.

According to SSI employees, Allied Security told workers that they will have to go through the motions of reapplying for their jobs, but assured them that all will be rehired in the same positions.

SSI employees not at Harvard, however, will not be guaranteed their old jobs in the reapplication process.

“The University has been assured that there will as smooth a transition as possible,” said Merry Touborg, a spokesperson for Harvard’s Office of Human Resources. “The University has let both companies know that we are concerned about any security disruptions.”

Touborg said both companies informed Harvard of the pending transaction.

SSI, a local company based in Malden, Mass., provides security to Harvard’s Medical, Law and Business Schools, as well as to the River Houses and the Yard. Allied Security, which bills itself as the third-largest security company in the country, currently has a small force staffing the security desk at Holyoke Center.

One SSI worker, who asked not to be identified, said the sale took him by surprise.

“I’m not in the CEO’s mind, but we were surprised because we were doing really good,” he said.

SSI won contracts to secure a number of new sites at Harvard last May, including the Science Center and various science labs.

SSI Operating Manager Robert Taylor did not return calls requesting comment yesterday.

Allied Security held orientations for SSI workers in Boston last weekend to familiarize them with the policies of the company.

Some employees said they are concerned by the way Allied Security plans to allocate overtime hours, which workers say SSI has granted generously.

“They made it very clear that they were not going to let us work a lot of overtime,” said another employee who asked not to be identified.

Rubin would not comment on any of Allied Security’s future policies because the deal has not yet been finalized.

The SSI employee repeated what an Allied Security official had told workers at the orientation last weekend: “If I’m paying 25 hours of overtime, I won’t be able to run this company.”

Some employees said the only reason they joined SSI was for the opportunity to work overtime.

“If [Allied Security] says I can only work 35 or 40 hours, I can’t pay my rent. I’ll have to go somewhere else,” said one employee, who has been with SSI for three years. “If they cut down the hours I know 50 percent of these people will quit.”

Muhammad Shams, an SSI security guard at Eliot House, says the situation is not as grave as his colleagues believe. “I don’t think anyone will quit because the majority will not be able to find a better deal than their job at Harvard,” Shams said.

Shams also said that because SSI permits employees to work as many hours as they want, some guards have been logging 90 or 100 hours per week.

“How can someone perform well when they are working 100 hours a week?” Shams said. “There are quality concerns. I think those are the hours that [Allied Security] will cut.”

One SSI employee said that many current workers take off months at a time to visit family in other countries and are allowed to reapply for their old jobs upon returning. He is not sure whether Allied Security will continue to grant workers this privilege.

“[Allied] said you should give us a chance,” he said. “They said it’s not going to be for the worse, it’ll be for the better. But practically speaking, we don’t know.”

—Staff writer May Habib can be reached at habib@fas.harvard.edu.

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