In what is at least a partial victory for Yale’s labor unions, the wages of University custodians under the eight-year contract approved Friday are far higher than those of janitorial counterparts at Harvard University, an examination of four categories of workers at the University showed.
The difference in wages between the two universities was a large subject of debate during the strike, with both sides producing reports bolstering their claims. The Yale Daily News examined four Yale employee categories — custodians, skilled technical workers, entry level clerks and senior administrative assistants — and matched their salaries with counterparts at Harvard. Under the new contract, clerks and administrative assistants will earn essentially the same amount at both schools, but Yale’s skilled professional workers receive far less than Harvard’s prevalent wage for such work.
Before the strike was settled, Yale custodians earned on average $26,291.20 annually, according to statistics maintained by the University. Under Friday’s pact, custodians now earn between $28,371 and $29,203; they will begin receiving between $29,224 and $30,056 in January 2004.
Yale janitorial wages now greatly exceed the current and future wages for the same jobs at Harvard, where workers currently earn either $24,648 or $24,960, according to Harvard’s current contract with its custodial union. While those workers will receive a raise in October and again in 2004 and 2005 — once the second round of pay raises arrives at Yale — the minimum amount Yale custodians will earn in 2004 will exceed the maximum amount their Harvard counterparts can earn in 2005.
While Yale’s wages for custodians are better than Harvard’s, the opposite is true for skilled workers such as electricians and plumbers, who received $44,636.80 under Yale’s previous contract, according to Yale’s human resources office. Under the new contract, Yale’s skilled workers now earn between $48,714 and $51,674 and will receive between $50,149 and $53,109 after January 2004, Yale spokesman Tom Conroy said.
Merry Touborg, a spokeswoman for Harvard’s human resources office, said the “prevalent” trade hourly rate for similar positions at Harvard is $26.31 per hour, or $54,724.80 over a 40-hour week for 52 weeks.
A comparison of Harvard and Yale clerk and administrative assistant salaries showed that neither school’s workers have a clear advantage. Yale members of Grade A — one of four levels of pay for clerical and technical workers that includes clerks — earned between $18,856.50 and $26,773.50, according to the previous Local 34 contract. Conroy said members of Grade A now receive between $22,031 and $27,960 and will earn between $23,662 and $29,406 after January.
Both the maximum and minimum old wages were lower than the pay for the same job at Harvard. But the final agreement at Yale creates much more parity between the two schools. According to the Harvard human resources Web site, workers in pay grade 47, which includes that job, earn between $21,336 and $30,912.
Comparing wages for senior administrative assistants at Yale with those of their counterparts at Harvard is complicated by the difficulty in finding exactly what position is comparable. In Yale’s “Hewitt Report,” consultants used Harvard’s secretary III position as the basis for comparison. But the unions disputed that reasoning, arguing that faculty assistant III, a higher-paid position, was more similar.
Touborg said she was not able to determine which job was closer to the one at Yale.
“There are just too many variables and too many variations on a theme to match jobs,” Touborg said.
According to the previous Local 34 contract, members of labor grade D, including senior administrative assistants, earned between $26,578.50 and $37,732.50. Clerks now receive between $31,061 and $50,850 and will receive between $33,360 and $52,884 after January, Conroy said.
Members of pay grade 53 at Harvard, including secretary IIIs, earn slightly less than their counterparts at Yale; but members of pay grade 55 at Harvard, including faculty assistant IIIs, earn slightly more than Yale’s senior administrative assistants.
Yale and its unions also disputed differences in the cost of living between Cambridge, Mass., and New Haven. The Hewitt Report concluded that “Yale’s compensation is comparable to Harvard’s when adjusted for the cost of living differences between the New Haven metro and Boston metro areas.”
The report adjusted Harvard’s wages downward by 12.7 percent. Yale’s unions argued that the difference in the cost of living between the two cities varied widely depending on the source used and that the higher cost of living in the Boston area does not necessarily lead to higher salaries.
According to the ACCRA Cost of Living Index, the cost of living in Boston was 10.7 percent greater than the cost of living in New Haven in the second quarter of 2003, the last quarter in which information was available.