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Harvard is changing its subcontractor for campus security from AlliedBarton to Securitas on Aug. 1, but the workers employed, the level of security on campus, and the collective bargaining agreement between the workers and the union will not change.
"We expect [all the workers] to be rehired by Securitas...that's our demand," said Wayne M. Langley, director of higher education for Service Employees International Union Local 615. "We think that pretty much all aspects of contract under AlliedBarton will be honored by Securitas."
The contract switch marks the end of a tumultuous five-year stint for AlliedBarton at Harvard that saw student protests and even a hunger strike erupt as security guards fought for wage increases and the right to unionize. Although security guards had once been directly employed by the University and enjoyed membership in the Harvard University Security, Parking, and Museum Guards Union, the University gradually outsourced the work due to financial losses earlier in the decade.
University spokesman Kevin Galvin declined to comment on whether the University is reducing costs with the contractor switch, saying only that the move resulted from a "competitive bidding process in which Securitas presented the most competitive proposal." He said that the Securitas contract will last for three years with an option to renew for up to an additional three years.
At a time already tense with the news of layoffs and budget-cutting, it appears that Harvard sought to avoid any possible conflict that could arise from the contract switch.
"From the beginning of the process, the University asked bidders to honor the existing contract negotiated by the current vendor and Local 615, and Securitas has agreed to do so," Galvin said.
Langley said he expects that the contract swap will have a minimal effect on the workers and on the University. He said that such contracts come up for review frequently and noted that the evaluations are "always a subject of money and performance."
Harvard's outsourced security guards unionized in 2006 after two years of protracted negotiations. After the agreement was reached between AlliedBarton and SEIU, students, labor activists, and workers embarked on a campaign to secure a contract for the guards that included fair wages, steady, full-time work, a safe and sanitary workplace, and fair work procedures.
But negotiations stagnated, prompting students to take more drastic actions to support the workers and Union. Groups such as the Student Labor Action Movement and the Stand for Security Coalition organized extensive protests and even a nine-day hunger strike, which resulted in the hospitalization of two undergraduates, to encourage the University to intervene in the contract negotiations. The activism prompted University human resource officials to seek an expedited audit of AlliedBarton to ensure that the subcontractor met the University's hiring and wage parity requirements for in-house and outsourced workers.
Eventually, a contract was secured that guaranteed workers an increase in starting wages, the opportunity for an escalating pay scale, and a new grievance procedure.
—Staff writer Peter F. Zhu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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