Union Still in Contract Talks

Eight months into contract negotiations between Harvard University and the Harvard Union of Clerical Technical Workers, the two sides “remain mired in disagreements,” the union described the situation in a letter released Friday.

HUCTW, which represents more than 4,600 of the University’s librarians, secretaries, lab technicians, and other non-faculty staff, outlined the two most contentious negotiating points—salary increases and health care—in its message about its plans to move the talks forward.

The union and University were scheduled to ratify a new contract on July 1. Since that deadline passed months ago, the union’s old contract has continued to govern the workers’ relationship with Harvard.

“This is a difficult and frustrating situation for our members and our friends in the Harvard community,” HUCTW Director Bill Jaeger said.

Jaeger said that Friday’s update was meant to show union members that negotiators were still putting “a lot of energy” into agreeing on a new contract.

“We’re going to continue to be creative, and we’re willing to compromise,” Jaeger said.

He said that the passing of time had caused more progress than the talks themselves.

Since workers’ health care plans are now already set for 2013, HUCTW has proposed that negotiators table the discussion of health care for active employees to ratify a contract faster.

“If the University can find a way to agree with us about that, that’s in a way hopeful,” Jaeger said. “Maybe that’s making lemonade out of lemons.”

The letter said that as time goes on, the union sees increased support from faculty and students.

“We’re thrilled about some of the fun energy that’s coming from some of the student groups,” Jaeger said, adding that the support was “encouraging and heartwarming.”

In an emailed statement, University spokesperson Kevin Galvin wrote that Harvard has made a number of proposals comparable to agreements it has reached over the past year with seven other unions.

Galvin wrote that over the past few weeks, administrators from around Harvard have met with union leaders to explain that the University faces financial pressures, the severity of which has been a point of disagreement between the two sides for months.

“We remain committed to an agreement that is fair both to the members of the HUCTW and the University as a whole, and we hope that substantive progress can be made at the negotiating table,” Galvin wrote.

—Staff writer Samuel Y. Weinstock can be reached at