The Service Employees International Union Local 615 filed a grievance against the University this summer, claiming Harvard is not following the proper protocol for job selection among its custodial staff. The issue is now under arbitration.
According to Director of Higher Education for SEIU Local 615 Wayne M. Langley, the University’s contract with the union requires managers to post certain job openings so that current in-house workers can then apply for them.
If workers do not get the job, the University must send them a letter explaining why they were not selected for the position.
Langley said that the University is avoiding posting many jobs and instead moving people into new positions without taking into account factors such as seniority, as required by the contract.
“They’re not posting jobs so that people can apply, because then they have to tell people why they didn’t get [the jobs],” Langley said.
“If they say, ‘This is not really a posting,’ they can put whoever they want in. They’re playing funny games with wording.”
Langley added that the practice has a divisive effect on the workforce. “It raises questions of favoritism,” he said.
The University said that it does not believe it is violating its contract with SEIU.
“What’s at issue is an interpretation of contract language, and we’re confident that we can arrive at a satisfactory solution with the help of the arbitrator,” Harvard spokesperson Kevin Galvin said.
Langley said that long tenured workers believe the University is not fully recognizing their commitment to Harvard.
“Many of these workers have worked for over ten years here but don’t get better jobs. If someone’s been here for ten years, then they’re not bad at their job,” Langley said. “They want the University to respect their longevity.”
One worker, who asked to remain anonymous to maintain his relationship with his employer, said that he is worried he will never be able to move up the career ladder.
“They don’t tell me [that I did anything] wrong, but then I don’t get the good jobs,” he said.
He said that he has worked at Harvard for over five years without a promotion, while some of his colleagues who have worked for less than two have received better jobs.
Ultimately, Langley said workers are looking for recognition for their work.
“The crux of the issue is respect,” Langley said.
The arbitration on this issue comes at an already tense time as SEIU and the University are negotiating a new contract. The current contract expires September 23.
But Langley said the arbitration is not greatly affecting the negotiations.
“It’s one of many factors in the negotiation,” Langley said. “There’s a good chance we might settle outside arbitration”.
—Staff writer Mercer R. Cook can be reached a firstname.lastname@example.org.
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