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Union Protests Schedule Shift

Some workers will no longer be paid overtime for working weekends

By Mercer R. Cook, Crimson Staff Writer

The union that represents the majority of the custodial staff at Harvard has complained to the University that it unfairly changed twenty workers’ hours without consulting the union first.

Under the new schedules, many workers, members of the Service Employees International Union Local 615, are no longer getting paid overtime for working weekends.

But according to Harvard Director of News and Media Relations Kevin Galvin, the University shifted the schedule of some employees of Facilities Maintenance Operations, the organization in charge of in-house custodial work, in order to save jobs.

“In order to respond to increased operational costs, FMO needed to revisit a policy that essentially provided guaranteed overtime hours on weekends for some workers,” Galvin said. “[The switch] avoided the need to consider the elimination of several full-time positions. FMO leaders were pleased that they were able to find a solution that protected jobs.”

Furthermore, a University official, who wished to remain anonymous due to the sensitive nature of the dispute, said that it is not standard practice for FMO to discuss schedule shifts with the union.

“FMO had a long standing practice of discussing schedule changes directly with workers,” the official said.

During the summer, managers within FMO changed the schedules of several Houses, shifting them from a Monday through Friday schedule to either a Tuesday through Saturday schedule or a Sunday through Thursday schedule.

The scheduling change came amidst contract negotiations for over 650 custodians between SEIU and the University. The current contract expires September 23.

Director of Higher Education for SEIU Local 615 Wayne M. Langley criticized not only the manner in which the University implemented the changes, but the schedule adjustments themselves.

“This has had an enormous negative impact in the workforce,” he said.

Affected workers said that the change in hours has had severe, negative financial consequences.

“Sometimes we worked overtime or double overtime so I have money to buy the kids a present,” said one House worker who wished to remain anonymous given the sensitivity of the subject. “Now we can’t and there is no overtime during the week.”

Workers described tough consequences at home as a result of working on the weekend.

“I used to have my kids every weekend,” said the House worker, who had his schedule changed to Tuesday through Saturday. “Now I have to work on Saturday; the only day they can come is Sunday.”

Another worker, who also wished to remain anonymous, also said the new schedule is keeping him from his children. “On weekends, we spend time [together],” he said, adding that now he cannot spend time with his children on his days off because they are in school.

SEIU said it was also frustrated with the way the scheduling change was carried out, claiming the union should have been approached before any schedule changes occurred.

“This is not what the contract says,” Langley said. “It has completely disrupted these workers’ lives.”

The University said that managers are open to discussing the schedule changes with the Union and directly with workers.

—Staff writer Mercer R. Cook can be reached at mcook@college.harvard.edu

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