Harvard and UNITE HERE Local 26, the union that represents campus dining hall workers, reached a tentative contract agreement Thursday.
The five year contract stipulates an annual wage increase for workers and provides for a committee to consider further workplace improvements.
The agreement came in the wake of an extension last week, after the Local 26 and the University were unable to come to an agreement by Sept. 7, the expiration date of the current contract. Before the new contract becomes official, Local 26 will hold a secret ballot among its full membership on Sept. 19.
Local 26 President Brian Lang said he was very pleased with the new contract, adding that it was passed unanimously by the bargaining committee between the University and the union.
“We’re very happy with the agreement,” Lang said. “It addresses all of the issues we have been raising in our sustainable jobs and sustainable foods campaign.” That campaign called for, among other things, more hours and job security for dining hall workers and for an increase in the amount of fresh, local, and organic foods prepared in the dining halls.
The University was also satisfied with the tentative decision.
“The agreement is the result of an extensive and constructive negotiation process between the parties and reflects many significant improvements to the previous contract,” said Bill Murphy, Harvard Director of Labor and Employee Relations, in a statement.
On the union’s foremost issue of higher incomes for dining hall workers, a statement issued by the University said that the contract provides a mutually beneficial course of action.
The contract provides for an average annual wage increase of 2.73 percent, which the University called “both fair and operationally sustainable.”
The new contract also stipulates the formation of a “Joint Best Practices Committee”, which will be responsible for exploring and recommending “best practices in the workplace, including those that promote: healthy, sustainable and environmentally responsible food services; full year employment for members; and professional development,” according to the statement.
Lang said that the formation of the committee will play a critical role in the success of the new contract for both sides.
“What we were intent on doing in this contract was establishing a truly collaborative process with the University with real decision makers from the University,” Lang said. “We’ve come to an agreement on a process—it’s a beginning, but it’s a beginning where we’re sitting down as equals to come up with solutions to the issues.”
Lang applauded the University’s openness in taking the “bold step” of creating such a committee.
He added that he was “confident” that the contract would be “enthusiastically” received.
“We think it’s going to yield positive results for our members and also for the University,” he said.
—Staff writer Mercer R. Cook can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.