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Harvard’s largest labor union has come to the bargaining table to negotiate a new contract with the University, the union and administrators announced in a joint statement to union members last week.
The union—called the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers—represents around 5,100 Harvard employees, primarily those who work in libraries, labs, and faculty offices. The contract, which must be finalized by Sept. 30—the date the existing contract expires—will be binding for the next three years.
HUCTW President Carrie Barbash said the union has been in informal talks with the University since December and began holding issue-based discussions with Harvard earlier in the spring.
In the weekly meetings, University Director of Labor and Employee Relations Paul R. Curran, other members of the Office of Labor and Employee Relations, and several “high-level managers” negotiated with union officers and elected representatives, Barbash said. As negotiations progress, the union anticipates bringing in professional mediators.
“Often, things get difficult, and we try to bring them in before so that they're already filled in and so that they can also help shape the early discussions in the most productive way,” Barbash said.
“Hopefully, things never get that way,” she added.
Barbash said that, in addition to traditional negotiations over salary increases, the union plans to prioritize introducing clauses meant to limit the University’s use of contingent workers in place of unionized employees.
“Obviously the world is changing, work is changing,” Barbash said. “I think we're just looking at, how is the University using all these different types of staff or different types of workers, how common is their usage across the University, and is that a good thing or something, maybe, that we should look at it together?”
In a statement, Curran wrote the initial negotiations have been “very productive” and have “laid a solid foundation for successful negotiations.”
“We look forward to engaging with the HUCTW bargaining team in the negotiation process,” Curran wrote. “Our team is pleased to be a part of the longstanding positive relationship between HUCTW and Harvard University.”
“I am very hopeful that we can reach a successor agreement that adequately addresses the interests of both parties and will allow us to continue on with the important mission of the University,” he added.
Barbash agreed, saying the negotiations “have been progressing smoothly so far.”
“We try to make proposals that would enable both parties to save money,” Barbash said. “As much as it is possible, we come up with win-win proposals.”
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