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Members of Harvard’s largest employee union praised the details of a recent agreement with the University that features significant changes in health care benefits and wage compensation.
The tentative contract with the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers—which was finalized nearly four months after the expiration date of the previous contract—introduces larger copayments on the part of union employees instead of deductibles, a potential feature many union members feared would be implemented in light of a controversial health care benefits package for non-union staff Harvard introduced in 2014.
Danielle Boudrow, a program coordinator for the Women and Public Policy Program at the Harvard Kennedy School and a member of HUCTW, said she was “very happy” with the changes to health care included in the new agreement. She said she thought Harvard provided an improved option that “doesn’t include the most dangerous parts” of the 2014 non-union employee package, whose introduction of deductible and coinsurance payments some professors argued would unfairly burden junior faculty members and faculty with families.
In lieu of including such payments, the most recent HUCTW agreement provides for moderately increased patient copayments. Sarah E. Hillman—a local area representative for HUCTW and an employee at Harvard Medical School—said she believed the larger copayment “definitely represents a compromise” between the initial goals of the union, but that she is nonetheless pleased with the outcome of the negotiations.
Hillman also praised what she described as the thoughtfulness of union and Harvard negotiators and the resulting round of wage increases set to activate in Oct. 2016 and 2017. The tentative contract also includes retroactive wage increases for the 2015 fiscal year.
“I appreciate the fact that the University and the mediators involved in these negotiations were able to push past just the straight [Consumer Price Index] data and look at the actual cost of living in Boston,” Hillman said.
For Hillman, who said that, for the past three years, the cost of renting her apartment in Brighton has increased annually, the wage increases are helpful.
Union members will officially vote on the contract on Feb. 25. Ahead of that vote, HUCTW has hosted lunchtime information sessions to help clarify more complex details of the contract. Additionally, Bill Jaeger, executive director of the union, said that HUCTW set up a hotline for union members with specific questions about the contract. He said he believes most union members will vote to ratify the agreement.
Members of HUCTW said they had hoped the negotiations would have happened more quickly, but they appreciated the thoroughness of the talks.
“It's more important to get the best possible agreement rather than the fastest agreement,” Boudrow said.
—Staff writer Brandon J. Dixon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @BrandonJoDixon.
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