The Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers, which represents many of Harvard’s library workers, began meeting with Library management on Wednesday and Thursday of last week in three Joint Councils.
In the wake of Harvard University Library Executive Director Helen Shenton’s Jan. 19 announcement that the library’s reorganization would include staff reductions, the Joint Councils were announced in late February to facilitate communication between the library and the union, HUCTW director Bill Jaeger said at the time.
In a letter sent to HUCTW members early last week, HUCTW leaders announced the specific members who would comprise the union teams for each of the three joint councils. Each team was made up of five to seven union members. According to the letter, one union team was formed for each of the Joint Councils: Access Services; Technical Services; and Preservation, Conservation, and Digital Imaging.
The letter to union members noted that before any worker is laid off, the University must undergo a “process of consultation” with the union, and that these Joint Councils do not take the place of that process.
“It is our hope that through this Joint Council process, we can prevent a need for those [layoff] conversations,” the letter said.
Although Jaeger, a member of one of the union teams, declined to comment on the specific topics discussed at the first Joint Council meetings, he said that he thought they were “a serious, energetic exchange.”
“It was a way better tone on all sides than in some of the public forums back in January and February,” Jaeger said.
“I think it’s important for staff to have a hands-on experience to be part of that thinking and planning.”
A University spokesperson called the first Joint Council sessions “positive and productive” in an email statement.
In addition to representatives from the Harvard Library and HUCTW, each Joint Council included officials from Harvard’s Office of Labor and Employee Relations, according to the spokesperson.
“The Library is committed to participating in a constructive dialogue with...HUCTW over the next several months,” the spokesperson wrote.
Susan D. Radovsky, a library assistant who was a member of the Technical Services Joint Council, wrote in an email that she was hopeful that the Joint Councils would lead to a more open discussion.
“Our hope is that this engagement will produce an atmosphere of transparency about strategic goals and plans that will lead to greater staff involvement in the shaping of the new Harvard Library,” Radovsky wrote in the email.
Though Jaeger said that he is optimistic after the first sessions, he said that it would likely be “some weeks or months” before the Councils make concrete progress. Groups will continue to meet every two or three weeks for at least several months.
“There’s a lot more talking to be done,” Jaeger said. “For our union, it’s a hugely important goal that we protect jobs and the kind of staffing levels we need to have a great library, but it’s clear already that these Joint Councils are going to be about a lot more than that.”
—Staff writer Dan Dou can be reached at email@example.com.
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