The University recently acknowledged that 291 part-time workers surpassed their 17.5 hour weekly cap last year, or were “cycled” between working as “temps,” or temporary workers, and “LHTs,” or less-than-half-time workers, to avoid exceeding their 90 day limits. The University may have sought to take advantage of this loophole to cut costs. We believe its actions were unethical, and that it should compensate its employees for the extra hours they worked.
From a purely fiscal standpoint, the case for cycling workers from temp to LHT status and back is clear. Doing so allows the University to avoid providing workers with full-time employment benefits. From a legal perspective, the practice does not run afoul of any laws. However, this does not mean it is ethical for Harvard to engage in these practices. Many of these workers deal with economic uncertainty and put in many hours hoping to secure elusive full-time positions after working as temps or LHTs. It is therefore only fair that Harvard remunerate employees for all the extra hours they worked, given the expectation of stable long-term employment that lured many to work part-time in the first place.
Fortunately, the University and the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers came together to forge a new agreement that was put up for a vote yesterday. A joint union-Harvard committee will ensure that the agreement is enforced properly. Additionally, the University must release data detailing the hours that LHTs and temps work, as well as the duration of their employment. The new guidelines appear to be a significant improvement for part-time workers, as they promise to break the process of cycling and lengthy workweeks that have exploited workers for far too long.
Nonetheless, it is worth noting that both the union and Harvard have not explicitly incorporated the voices of those affected by this policy in the negotiation process. Temp workers and LHTs are not members of HUCTW. However, their opinions should certainly matter in deciding the labor practices that they will work under. We believe that moving forward, both parties should solicit these workers’ thoughts.
We expect the HUCTW poll to have been a free and fair election, leading to a decision that will make the lives of hundreds of workers easier and more prosperous — whether they choose to accept the agreement or return to the bargaining table and fight for a new contract.
This staff editorial is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.