As Yale begins negotiations with its two unions this week, Harvard is in talks of its own.
Harvard President Lawrence Summers announced Jan. 31 that he would adopt the recommendations of the Harvard Committee on Employment and Contracting Policies with regards to renegotiating contracts for the university’s custodial, dining services, and security workers.
The committee was formed as a response to last spring’s three-week-long Progressive Student Labor Movement sit-in, during which students occupied Massachusetts Hall, demanding a “living wage” for Harvard’s employees.
In its Dec. 19 report, the committee suggested Harvard renegotiate wages so that they do “not fall below the range of $10.83 to $11.30 per hour.” The report recommended a “parity wage and benefits policy,” requiring that workers hired from outside the unions be paid the same wage as union workers in their field. The committee also called for an annual report on the status of Harvard’s lower-wage workers.
Summers said in a written statement that negotiations with the custodians’ union had already begun, and said he expects negotiations with all the unions to be finished no later than May 2002.
“In short, the parity wage and benefits policy, when combined with collective bargaining, will provide a powerful safeguard for workers,” Summers said in his statement.
Joe Wrinn, the director of Harvard’s Office of News and Public Affairs, said he had fielded many inquiries about the cost of the wage increases, which he said remains unclear.
“It will be several million dollars, but I can’t really give any specific dollar amount,” Wrinn said, adding that the estimate is in the range of one to three million dollars, but that this estimate does not take into account negotiations with the unions for benefits.
Some students were disappointed that the committee and Summers did not call for a specific minimum wage. Such a mandatory wage floor was called for by the PSLM and its associated organizations.
“By rejecting the community’s long-standing call for a living wage, echoed by eight of the HCECP’s nineteen members — including a majority of its students and workers — Summers has failed to enact a solution that will end poverty at Harvard in the long run,” the Harvard Living Wage Campaign said in a statement on its Web site.
The Living Wage Campaign also objected to what it feels are insufficient health benefits, provisions against bad-faith bargaining, protection of workers’ rights to organize, and the lack of a cost of living adjustment.
The HCECP said in its report that it did not adopt a minimum wage because such a plan would address “the symptoms and not the causes of the problem of declining real pay for service workers at Harvard.”
The PSLM-affiliated Harvard Workers’ Center described its objections to “outsourcing” in an October report. In a statement on its Web site, it said that the practice of hiring outside workers “weaken[s] workplace rights and reduc[es] wages and benefits.”
The committee did not ban outsourcing, but agreed that it should be properly regulated.
“We believe that the University must ensure that when outsourcing is used, it should be pursued to increase quality and spark innovation, not to depress the wages of Harvard’s own service employees,” the HCECP said in its report.