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University and Clerical Union Reach Tentative Agreement

A sticker for the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers reads 'Solidarity-Negotiation-Progress.'
A sticker for the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers reads 'Solidarity-Negotiation-Progress.' By Madeline R. Lear
By Molly C. McCafferty, Crimson Staff Writer

After seven months of negotiations, Harvard and its largest union reached a tentative agreement on a new contract Thursday morning.

The union — the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers — represents around 5,100 Harvard employees who primarily work in libraries, labs, and faculty offices. The agreement, which replaces a contract that expired nearly a month ago, will be binding for the next three years.

The union’s previous contract became obsolete on Sept. 30. Between then and now, the University and the union — the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers — agreed to continue providing benefits under the last contract to members, though members experienced delays in receiving raises that union leaders said would likely come with a new agreement. The previous agreement will continue until at least Dec. 4, when union members will vote to ratify Thursday’s contract. If that referendum passes, union members will receive a lump sum bonus equal to the amount they would have earned if they had won raises on Sept. 30.

In an email to members Thursday, union leadership wrote that the raises included in the contract marked a success. According to the email, members who have been employed by the union for one year will receive a 3.8 percent raise the day the contract takes effect. In the second and third years of the contract, “the average member” will see their pay rise by 3.5 percent each year.

In a joint statement, leaders of HUCTW and University representatives wrote that, in addition to ensuring annual pay increases, the agreement improves upon “a number of policy issues of mutual interest to the Union and the University.”

“The Tentative Agreement represents a commitment to fairness on the part of both parties and recognizes the important role HUCTW members play in the success of the Harvard community,” the statement reads.

These policy issues include the University’s use of contingent workers — temps and workers who are employed less than 17.5 hours per week. The use and classification of these workers has been a point of contention between Harvard and HUCTW throughout negotiations.

In a September interview, HUCTW President Carrie Barbash explained that, in many cases, these workers are hired in accordance with HUCTW’s current contract policy, which states that temporary employees can only be hired for a maximum of three months. Other times, however, the employees are kept in temporary positions for extended periods of time without Harvard granting them full employee status. This prevents them from joining the union and receiving benefits, a situation that worried Barbash and the union negotiators.

In the contract, the University and the union agreed to institute “stronger policies and enforcement mechanisms” to prevent the “inappropriate use” of contingent workers, union leadership wrote in their email to members.

Simone R. Gonzalez ’13 — a HUCTW negotiator and Harvard Business School employee whose focus on the bargaining team revolved around these workers — said she was happy with the “substantive policies” the union and the University reached.

“A really important HUCTW principle ... is the idea that that people coming onto the campus every day and doing regular Harvard work on a regular basis should have the benefits of regular employees,” Gonzalez said.

In the lead-up to the ratification vote, union leadership plans to meet with members, hear their thoughts on the contract, and encourage them to vote to ratify it, Barbash said.

“HUCTW negotiators, Executive Board members, officers, and organizers enthusiastically recommend a ‘Yes’ vote to approve the new contract,” union leaders wrote in the email to members. “We’re looking forward to discussing the details with you and hearing all of your ideas, questions, and concerns over the next few weeks.”

Correction: Oct. 26, 2018

A previous version of this article incorrectly indicated that Simone R. Gonzalez '13 is a Harvard Medical School employee. In fact, she is a Harvard Business School employee.

—Staff writer Molly C. McCafferty can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @mollmccaff.

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