News and Events

Coronavirus Information for HUCTW Members

August 13 Update

As you saw in the Fall Planning Update from Harvard administrators about plans for the coming months, most Harvard staff members will continue to work from home until the end of the calendar year in order to maintain low campus density and COVID-19 exposure risk. Some Harvard staff members whose work requires them to be on site have been asked to return to campus–primarily those in labs and libraries. Additionally, many essential staff have been working on campus for the duration of the official campus closure and will continue to do so.

In addition to the other safety protocols Harvard has put in place, HUCTW and Harvard have agreed that members who work on campus more than four hours a week will be tested for COVID-19 on a recurring basis. At this time, most HUCTW members will be tested weekly, but some may be tested more frequently based on factors such as how much interaction they have with other Harvard community members and Harvard student housing. HUHS may adjust testing frequency if community infection risk increases or decreases. All non-union staff, faculty, students, and members of the other campus unions who are working on-site are required to take part in recurring testing as well.

Below are key understandings from the Harvard-HUCTW agreement around testing requirements, as well some important explanations about medical privacy and medical records from HUHS.

Paid Time for Testing

Recurring testing should typically be scheduled during the work day (you should not need to use personal time for testing). Testing scheduled during the work day will be paid work time, including necessary travel time to and from the testing location. It may also be appropriate in some circumstances for members to be reimbursed for reasonable and necessary expenses incurred in complying with the testing requirement.

Testing Privacy and Records

Free testing is provided through the Harvard University Health Services (HUHS) COVID-19 testing program. On-site tests are carried out and processed by the Broad Institute. The results of COVID-19 samples collected by HUHS/the Broad Institute are maintained by HUHS, not by Harvard schools or units. HUHS will provide information to departments as to whether or not an individual has been tested, but will not share test results with Harvard schools and departments. 

If there is a positive case, HUHS will contact you to discuss what it means to be positive and explain next steps. HUHS will also notify you that they need to contact your supervisor or HR representative let them know that you are “not cleared to come to work.”  A staff member might be “not cleared to come to work” for several reasons besides a positive test, including things such as: self-reported symptoms, suspected infection, possible exposure to an infected person, or not yet completing the COVID-19 safety training.

HR professionals and managers have been strongly cautioned that all information related to testing and COVID-19 return-to-work status is private personal information and should be treated as highly confidential. Again, HR and/or managers will not be told whether you have a positive or negative test, only whether you have been cleared to come to work.

Test results are not filed as part of an individual’s medical record with HUHS, or as part of their medical records with any other health care provider.

Testing Options

At this point in time, HUHS is only accepting results for tests it conducts at one of its on-campus testing locations, including (1) the Harvard Stadium in Allston, (2) the New Research Building in Longwood, and soon (3) the Science Center Plaza in Cambridge.

However, HUHS is in the process of making unobserved, self-collection the primary testing method by start of the fall semester. If you would prefer to have your test be performed under observation by a medical professional, you may continue to be tested at one of the on-campus sites listed above.

Additionally, HUHS is committed to launching secure website that will allow employees to upload negative COVID-19 test results from other qualified medical providers of the employee’s choosing outside of Harvard, and anticipates that this will also be available by the beginning of the fall semester. If the system for accepting results from tests taken elsewhere is not in place by the beginning of the fall semester (August 31), the University will meet again with HUCTW on September 1, 2020 to address this issue.

Special logistical arrangements for testing may be made for HUCTW members whose regular work location is outside of Cambridge and Boston.

If a member refuses or is unable to take the test, their physical access to campus will be revoked, and they will be expected to use vacation or personal time while the situation is being investigated. The University will make efforts to ensure reasonable accommodation in those instances where the refusal or inability to take the test is based on a disability, medical condition, or another compelling reason. If a member has a positive test result for COVID-19, generally they should use sick time for any required absences.

Testing Strategy

Why has HUHS determined that recurring testing is necessary
HUHS:
“Testing on a regular basis allows [Harvard University Health Services] to identify those individuals in our community who may be positive for COVID prior to symptoms developing. Through this early identification, HUHS will be able to reduce the risk of asymptomatic spread to others in our community and therefore reduce our overall risk of significant outbreaks of the illness. HUHS has worked with medical and public health experts to recommend a particular cadence to its testing requirements for the various populations in our community that will help us prevent widespread illness. Testing is a “snapshot” in time; therefore repeat testing over time as we welcome more employees to campus allows us to take many “snapshots” and contain illness quickly.”

If you have questions or concerns about any of the above, please reach out to us at huctw.info@huctw.org or 617-661-8289. All discussions are confidential.

June 9 Update

We are writing to follow-up on the message HUCTW leaders sent on May 28 about our ongoing discussions with University administrators around preventing COVID-19 furloughs and layoffs. As you hopefully saw earlier today, Harvard officials announced the University will not be pursuing any furloughs or layoffs of Harvard employees at this time. They also announced that they will be extending the guarantee of pay and benefits continuation beyond June 28 for all “directly employed staff and contract workers whose work has been idled due to the pandemic, including those who provide dining, custodial, and security services.”

This announcement represents a very welcome but sudden policy reversal, after repeated statements by senior officials during the past month that furloughs or layoffs would likely be necessary, and after Harvard schools and departments had begun preparing specific furlough plans for discussion.

Our HUCTW petition to opposing the “rush to furloughs” garnered over 3,600 signatures in four days and we want to thank HUCTW members, members of other unions, non-union staff colleagues, faculty, students, alumni, and other Harvard community friends for demonstrating strong and principled concerns about furlough plans by signing and sharing the statement. Thank you also to those of you who reached out with creative ideas about ways to avoid or mitigate furloughs and layoffs. HUCTW members can be proud that we and so many in our community are prepared to join in unified support for fair, balanced, and progressive solutions. And we are relieved to see that University administrators seem to be prepared to work with our leaders in finding solutions to financial and operational challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic without cutting jobs and pay for committed staff members.

HUCTW members face other potential challenges in the coming weeks and months. Union members and leaders will need to work hard and skillfully to be sure that staff can begin to re-enter the Harvard workplace in safe and healthy conditions. Leaner budget plans for next year may involve complicated choices that have the potential to affect our working environments, staffing levels, workloads, and career development opportunities. Whatever the future holds, HUCTW leaders remain committed to pushing for fair and progressive solutions that protect staff from painful losses. HUCTW leaders are dedicated, as always, to listening and working with members on all questions and concerns, and engaging together with University, school, and department leaders to resolve issues.  Please feel free to write or call with any questions at huctw.info@huctw.org or 617-661-8289.


May 28 Update

We are writing to update you on HUCTW’s discussions with Harvard administrators to prevent pay loss and job cuts among HUCTW members.

In their message to staff on May 5, senior Harvard officials stated that in order to address losses caused by the fallout of COVID-19, it would be necessary to enact additional cost reductions, possibly “including layoffs or furloughs.” Following these statements, we have had hundreds of conversations with members across campus about their serious concerns and creative ideas around preventing and mitigating furloughs and job losses.

To be clear, no COVID-19 furloughs or layoffs have been discussed with HUCTW or implemented to date in any school or department at Harvard. However, it is apparent from the University’s own communications and reports from members, that furloughs, and possibly layoffs, are being seriously considered as a potential next step.

HUCTW leaders strongly oppose the push to move forward with furloughs or layoffs and we are calling on our members, colleagues, and friends in the community to work together to find less harmful ways to resolve our University’s challenges. 

In their most recent message, Harvard leaders stated the University would “make every effort to limit the extent of any workforce actions.” From our discussions, we believe that Harvard leaders want to avoid layoffs and furloughs. That was the primary reason that Harvard made the principled decision to continue to pay all staff across the University through June 28.

However, we also believe that top administrators appear to be rushing to move ahead with potential furloughs and layoffs without knowing or presenting all of the necessary facts to HUCTW and the wider community, and without exploring all reasonable options to avoid furloughs and layoffs and protect the most vulnerable among us.

An Incomplete Financial Picture

As we mentioned in earlier letters, we have been meeting once a week or more with key University representatives. Although Harvard officials continue to be willing to meet and have provided us with some important relevant data, we have serious concerns that University leaders are moving too quickly towards furloughs and layoffs without considering a complete picture of the problems Harvard and its schools are facing.

Although the University has published two significant numbers (predictions that Harvard will take in $415 million less in revenue in fiscal year 2020, and $750 million less in revenue in fiscal year 2021), senior administrators have not yet shared a complete analysis of the full financial impact.

University leaders have described cost-saving measures, including “salary freezes for all faculty and exempt staff, a University-wide hiring freeze, deferring or cancelling all discretionary spending, a review of all capital projects to determine which ones can be deferred, and voluntary salary reductions for senior leadership.” During the statewide lockdown and campus closure, Harvard has also clearly been saving money on expenses such as healthcare costs and energy use. But we have not yet seen specific information about the extent to which these significant cost-saving measures and trends can be expected to offset the predicted revenue loss.

We also have yet to see how, once the impacts are fully analyzed, these broader financial losses are going to affect local schools and departments. Many schools and departments are still in the middle of a process of revising budgets for FY2021, and different sections of the University have different levels of reliance on particular streams of revenue.

There has been no public discussion that would allow Harvard citizens to understand all the alternative possibilities that exist for reducing non-personnel costs, or to explore the potential for relying on reserves to support short-term deficit spending. How can the university know how many furloughs and layoffs are necessary, or if they are necessary at all, when University and school leaders are still in the process of developing a complete analysis of the financial picture and budgets have not been prepared for the new fiscal year? Why would Harvard move forward with potentially devastating cuts to pay or jobs when they don’t yet know the complete scope of the financial problems they are trying to solve?

An Equitably Shared Burden

University leaders’ communications mentioned that some of Harvard’s top executives are opting to take voluntary pay cuts, but these letters do not describe any mandatory pay cuts for senior leaders and Harvard’s other highly-paid executives. And yet the University is clearly indicating that mandatory furloughs or layoffs for union and non-union staff are a likely next step. If Harvard moves forward with salary cuts, Harvard’s highly-paid administrators and faculty (of which there are many) should shoulder the primary burden, not lesser-paid staff.

HUCTW members are middle-to-low income earners, many of whom are unable to accumulate savings for emergencies, let alone for future planning. The average member earns $61,000 per year and our lowest-paid staff earn less than $35,000 for full-time work. A three-month furlough could result in a loss of more than $15,000 for a typical HUCTW member; a six-month furlough would be a loss of more than $30,000 for the year. Although the US Congress has temporarily enhanced unemployment benefits, after July 31 unemployment insurance will only replace 50% of income lost. For our typical members, this could have devastating effects on their lives and their families; and for our lowest income earners, it will likely have catastrophic effects. Harvard’s highest-paid administrators and faculty can bear this burden without significant pain; our members cannot.

An Urgent Call for Partnership

As we mentioned in our last update for members, HUCTW leaders expect that negotiations around furloughs or layoffs will involve discussions with key decision-makers at the school or department level. And based on University communications and reports from members and friends in local departments, we expect these conversations to start very soon.

We know that local leaders care about the staff who work in their departments and don’t want to see job losses either. But in order to honor these staff, key decision-makers at all levels must commit to fully engage with HUCTW leaders and union members to explore every possible option to avoid furloughs and layoffs, as well as work seriously to mitigate the impact of any potential cuts on moderate-to-low income earners.

Harvard staff are not peripheral to the University’s core mission. Teaching, learning, and research at Harvard could not occur without the integral contributions of staff at every level. As University administrators said in their May 5 communication to staff members: “We recognize that Harvard is its people. We are grateful for the countless ways each of you contributes to the important work of this institution. In all we do, we will be guided by our goal to protect the well-being and security of our workforce as we manage through these unprecedented times.”

This is a highly commendable statement but University and school officials need to support these powerful words with commensurate actions:

Harvard should not rush into making devastating cuts like furloughs or layoffs. University leaders, school leaders, and the Harvard community do not yet have a complete financial picture of the University’s losses and gains.

Once the complete financial picture is understood, University and school leaders need to work together with HUCTW leaders and members to earnestly explore every potential alternative to furloughs and layoffs.

If these types of pay reductions move forward, the financial pain needs to be shared equitably based on who can withstand the most financial loss, with higher paid executives and faculty bearing the majority of the burden, not moderately paid staff.

University and school officials have the chance, in these complex and difficult times, to demonstrate their ongoing commitment to compassionate leadership, engaging sincerely with HUCTW leaders to find fair and thoughtful solutions to Harvard’s financial concerns together.

As noted above, there have not yet been any specific proposals for furloughs or layoffs shared with HUCTW leaders from any school or department, and we continue to work hard every day to save jobs and avoid pay losses.  We are strongly committed to ongoing communication and engagement with HUCTW members about challenges that we expect will begin to arise in some units in the coming weeks. Now more than ever, please share your questions, ideas, and concerns by talking with a Union leader you work with regularly, or write or call HUCTW at huctw.info@huctw.org or 617-661-8289.

Download a printable PDF version of the letter above.


May 5 Update

It has been eight weeks since Harvard administrators announced that the campus would close due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the remainder of the spring academic term would take place online. The majority of HUCTW members are working remotely, observing government stay-at-home advisories, adapting to new technologies and changing job roles, caring for children with schools and daycares closed, and protecting at-risk loved ones. Members still reporting to work on campus are coping with challenging circumstances, trying to stay safe and perform important jobs despite operational disruptions. At the same time, other members have been unable to work due to the nature of their jobs or personal circumstance.

This message is an important update on HUCTW’s efforts to protect jobs and maintain pay and benefits as uncertainty continues to swirl around the financial and operational impacts of the pandemic at Harvard, as well as related public health concerns and economic events.

University Communications About Job Security & Pay

At the end of March, senior Harvard administrators announced that the University would guarantee continuing pay and benefits through May 28 for all regular employees across the campus and also for most contingent and contracted workers. That outcome was applauded by HUCTW and other unions as a fair and principled step.

University officials have not communicated further about any specific campus-wide plans concerning the security of jobs and pay after May 28, either publicly or in the weekly union-management meetings that HUCTW leaders hold with Harvard administrators.

However, in mid-April, in a message headlined “Economic Impact of COVID-19,” senior Harvard officials noted that it might be necessary to enact cost reductions in the coming months, possibly “including layoffs or furloughs.” Understandably, many HUCTW members are asking whether they are likely to be affected by layoffs or furloughs. Harvard administrators have not announced or communicated with our Union’s leaders about any specific University-wide or school-level plans that would cause job losses or furloughs.

We have asked many urgent questions in our weekly meetings with Harvard administrators, hoping to hear more about the substance of financial difficulties that would lead University administrators to raise the broad prospect of furloughs and layoffs:

  • What is the scope of the costs associated with sudden closure of the campus this spring?
  • What are the administration’s estimates of revenue lost due to disrupted University operations?
  • How much value has the Harvard endowment lost in recent months?

Harvard officials have not yet provided specific answers to these questions. Without real and specific data, it is not possible for thoughtful members of the Harvard community to understand the depth of financial challenges facing our University, or consider what types of sacrifices might be appropriate or how those burdens should be shared fairly. HUCTW cannot propose or evaluate potential solutions if the University is not yet able to define the problem.

Key Principles for University Cost Reductions

Even as we continue to urge Harvard administrators to discuss these critical details as soon as possible, we can identify some broad overarching principles that we believe the University needs to apply when contemplating any substantial economizing measures:

  • If cost cutting is necessary, the initial focus should be on reducing departmental expenses that do not have a human cost, such as expenditures on travel, food, office equipment, etc. University leaders have already begun making these types of cuts, but once the Harvard’s financial challenges are fully understood, every possible cut–outside of staffing–needs to be thoroughly explored.
  • If staff reductions are necessary, voluntary layoffs and/or furloughs should be offered before any involuntary decisions.
  • If further income-reducing measures are needed, they should be distributed progressively in a systematic and transparent way, based on who can afford to bear the most burden. Highly paid managers and executives–of which there are many at Harvard–can bear a larger financial loss than lower paid staff.  If there need to be substantial losses in income, those losses should start at the top and be concentrated at the top.
  • Most importantly, all possible alternatives to involuntary layoffs or furloughs need to be thoroughly explored before any decisions are made. For our members, the Harvard-HUCTW contract states that University leaders need to work with Union leaders to ensure that “every effort should be made to ensure the security of employment.” This includes ideas like the ones above, but also other solutions that we can only identify once Harvard is able to provide HUCTW with specific details about what financial challenges the University is facing.

As we all know, teaching, learning, and research at the University could not occur without the indispensable contributions of Harvard’s dedicated employees. Whatever the University’s financial losses, Harvard has a responsibility to limit the economic pain of those losses on staff as much as possible.

Many of these ideas above echo positive statements made by President Bacow in his most recent communication–we look forward to seeing those progressive promises fulfilled as we enter into the necessary discussions around Harvard’s financial challenges and their impact on staff. Given that Harvard’s traditional approach to administrative and financial policy-making assigns major responsibility to the separate units, HUCTW leaders expect these negotiations will be primarily with administrators in the separate schools and departments.

Contractual Obligations & Protections

The President’s message also prompted questions from Union members about what protections exist in the Harvard-HUCTW Agreement if layoffs or furloughs are being discussed and what strategies and resources are available to us to prevent or reduce negative impacts:

  • LAYOFFS: A layoff occurs when a job is permanently eliminated. Our union contract provides members with strong protections against unnecessary or arbitrary layoff decisions and generous assistance for minimizing financial losses. As noted above, our Agreement says that “every effort should be made to ensure the security of employment” when considering changes that would have a negative impact on staff. The University is obliged to consult with the Union before finalizing any plans for layoffs, to provide information about the basis for layoffs and allow for the development of alternative proposals. Our Work Security program allows a laid off member to continue with full pay and benefits for up to eight months after notification if necessary while looking for a new job. You can read about these negotiated policies in more detail on the section of our website devoted to Layoffs and Work Security.
  • FURLOUGHS: Generally speaking, a furlough is a temporary, involuntary unpaid leave of absence for a specified period of time with an assured return to regular paid status at the end of the furlough.  As the policy idea is usually applied, a staff member on furlough would not work and would not be paid but would maintain employee status and continue to be enrolled in benefits programs such as health insurance. Furloughs are not described in the HUCTW-Harvard Agreement. As a result, the University would be obliged to negotiate with HUCTW if it wanted to implement a furlough program that would affect members of our Union. As mentioned above, in any talks on the subject of furloughs, HUCTW leaders would be determined in any talks on the subject of furloughs to make sure that every possible cost-cutting alternative is considered rather than reducing pay, and that financial burdens are shared fairly and progressively within the organization.
  • TERM POSITIONS: There is also concern expressed by some HUCTW members about staff in “term positions” – these staff have jobs with a specific end date in the HR and payroll systems. The HUCTW Agreement allows for term positions in “situations where departments have a legitimate temporary staffing need” including “positions with external funding or project work with a clearly-defined and time-bounded scope.” Under the contract, members in term positions of less than two years are not eligible for layoff benefits when their positions end on the stated term end date. However, if a term job continues for more than two years then the staff member is covered by all of the contract provisions for layoffs and Work Security when the position ends. There has been active discussion within HUCTW in recent years, and in previous rounds of negotiations between our Union and the University, about problems with overuse of the term position designation in situations that are not legitimately temporary staffing needs, and the Harvard-HUCTW contract provides an expedited meditation process for resolving these disagreements.

HUCTW leaders are deeply committed to strong, active efforts to prevent unnecessary job and pay losses  of any kind – whether at the University level or in individual schools or departments. We are also eager to engage with members who have ideas, questions, or concerns about the security of employment, pay, and benefits, including creative solutions for preventing losses and resolving financial challenges reasonably and fairly. Please don’t hesitate to contact HUCTW leaders with whom you talk regularly, or you can write or call HUCTW at huctw.info@huctw.org or 617-661-8289


April 16 Update

In the past week, senior Harvard administrators have written to our community with concerns about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the University’s finances. Those messages, delivered by central University leaders and also separately by the deans of the Harvard schools, have focused on analysis of unexpected costs in closing the University during March, as well as likely declines in revenue as the broader economy slides quickly into a recession. The communications also outlined goals and values that administrators hope to emphasize in planning for cost cuts in the near future.

Understandably, many HUCTW members have reacted to those messages with concerns about the security of our jobs and our incomes. We want to assure you that, when discussions take place with University administrators, HUCTW leaders will place the highest priority on protecting jobs and avoiding losses in pay or benefits. Our Union’s officers and organizers have fielded questions and ideas from hundreds of members in the past few days, nearly all related to economic impacts on the University and our jobs. HUCTW leaders are deeply committed to listening closely to members’ ideas and concerns, working hard to analyze current conditions and develop creative solutions, and representing our members’ priorities and concerns strongly and effectively in discussions with Harvard administrators.

HUCTW leaders are meeting weekly with Harvard administrators to discuss problems and policies related to the pandemic and disrupted University operations. We will be scheduling additional meetings in the coming weeks to learn more and to press forward important priorities related to Harvard finances and budgets. Again, protecting jobs, pay, and benefits will be Union leaders’ primary focus in these discussions.For many years, the HUCTW Agreement has provided members with strong protections ensuring that layoffs can only happen as a last resort and that displaced staff have generous support with continuing pay and benefits for several months while they are searching for a new job. Because some of you have asked about these benefits, we are providing a link to a page that provides more details about the HUCTW Work Security Program for Layoffs: https://huctw.org/worksecurity.

In the last five weeks, thousands of HUCTW members have shown remarkable skill, strength, and commitment in carrying out important Harvard work under unfamiliar and stressful circumstances. The next few months will almost certainly require Union leaders and members to engage in challenging negotiations with Harvard officials about how the public health and economic problems will affect our jobs and our financial security. It will be important that we listen to each other, think creatively, work hard, and stay strong. More than ever, please do not hesitate to write or call HUCTW with questions, concerns, and ideas. You can contact an HUCTW leader you know, or reach us at huctw.info@huctw.org or 617-661-8289.


March 31 Update

We are writing to follow-up on the message HUCTW leaders sent on Friday morning (3/27) about our ongoing discussions with University Leaders around the COVID-19 health crisis. On Friday afternoon, Harvard announced that the University would guarantee full pay and benefits continuation for staff members who are unable to work from home due to University closure or public health restrictions through May 28. This means that all HUCTW members will continue to receive their regular pay and benefits based on their regularly scheduled hours through May 28, regardless of whether they can work from home or not. Harvard also extended the pay continuation to include the vast majority of contingent and contract workers. You can see the complete text of the University’s message below, as well as a Boston Globe article about the announcement and our original message to members from Friday.

We will continue to meet with University leaders every week to discuss pressing member issues related to the Coronavirus as they arise.


March 27 Update

We wanted to update you on what HUCTW leaders are doing to support members at this time, as well as answer some of the questions we have received from you in recent days.

HUCTW leaders are meeting with Harvard administrators by videoconference every week to discuss broad member priorities and concerns around the Coronavirus. University representatives have been responsive and engaged in these conversations.

HUCTW leaders’ emphasis in these weekly meetings is on the following:

  • HUCTW members should continue to receive their full pay and benefits, even if they are unable to work due to Harvard closures or public health decisions.
  • HUCTW members’ jobs should be secure.
  • HUCTW members should have enough sick time or other paid time to care for themselves and their family members, especially in light of Governor Baker’s recent announcement that Massachusetts schools will be closed until May 4.

Although there are still significant unknowns about how long and in what ways the Coronavirus pandemic will affect our community, the current health crisis is clearly an unprecedented situation. In light of this, we have encouraged Harvard to continue to take positive, unprecedented steps to protect the livelihoods of the University’s committed and hard-working staff members.

This is a time when HUCTW members and their local managers should feel empowered to work out creative and flexible arrangements for working from home, work hours, and job duties. If you have concerns about remote work arrangements in your department and would like to talk to an HUCTW organizer, please call or email your organizer directly, or the HUCTW office if you’re not sure who to contact.

Some related topics we’ve received questions about over the last few days:

  • Time Reporting Codes: The University has indicated that there are three primary time reporting codes in PeopleSoft that you should be using during this time: (1) Regular,  (2) Sick, and (3) Excused Absence – COVID19.  However, there seems to be some variation among Harvard units in advice about how to apply the codes – with some providing more flexibility than others. Please reach out to your HUCTW Organizer if you have concerns about how they are being applied in your department.
  • Parking Refunds/Credits: The Harvard Parking Services department is currently offering two refund or credit options for those whose commutes and daily driving routines have been disrupted by Coronavirus.  One requires you to take timely action and the other does not. You can read about these two options for the Cambridge and Allston locations here: https://huctw.org/covidparking and for questions regarding Harvard parking in the Longwood Medical Area (LMA), members should call 617-432-1111, as payment relief is also being implemented for Harvard LMA parkers.
  • MBTA and Other Commuter Passes Refunds/Credits: Local transit providers have announced that the cost of April 2020 transit passes, which were sent out the week of March 16, can be credited back when certain deadlines and/or mailing documentation by the user are met. Some of these options require you to take timely action, others do not. May 2020 passes that members do not expect to use must be cancelled by April 4 or charges will be automatically processed. Details on all refunds and credits can be found on the Commuter Choice website via this link: https://huctw.org/covidtransport.

Again, if you have any workplace questions or concerns that you need assistance with, please reach out to your HUCTW Organizer directly, or the HUCTW office if you’re not sure who to contact. All conversations are confidential.

HUCTW Organizer contact information: https://huctw.org/contact
General telephone: 617-661-8289, General email: huctw.info@huctw.org


March 16 Update

As we mentioned in the message sent to all members last Wednesday, HUCTW leaders are available to help you with any workplace questions or concerns that arise as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic and Harvard’s response to it.

During this time, the best way to reach HUCTW organizers is by email (huctw.info@huctw.org) or by phone (617-661-8289). When you reach out via one of these methods, we will connect you with a union organizer who works with your department. All conversations are confidential.

At this time, it is best not to stop by the HUCTW office unless you have scheduled an appointment with an HUCTW organizer. If you already know the HUCTW organizer who works with your department, you can find their contact information here. Members will also be receiving an email directly from their HUCTW organizer(s) this week.


March 11 Update

Some HUCTW members have reached out to the Union office with questions about how Harvard’s response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak affects our membership. On Monday, March 9, Harvard President Larry Bacow announced that after the spring break, and beginning on March 23, Harvard will be holding all undergraduate and graduate classes remotely (online rather than in person) and that students should not return to campus if possible.

As of now, Harvard is still asking all healthy union and non-union staff to work as normal. HUCTW leaders want to ensure that members experience no loss in pay as a result of Harvard’s response to the Coronavirus and that all members have access to adequate sick time for themselves or affected loved ones. We also recognize that HUCTW members work in hundreds of diverse jobs across Harvard with unique health needs and family commitments, so very different questions may arise for individual members depending on their personal circumstances. HUCTW leaders are available to help you work through any workplace concerns or questions that may arise. You can email the HUCTW office at at huctw.info@huctw.org or call us at 617-661-8289 and we will put you in touch with a union organizer who works with your deparment. All conversations are confidential.

In the context of the Harvard-HUCTW contract, there are several things to be aware of:

  • The Harvard-HUCTW contract supports and encourages flexible work arrangements, including working from home (telework/remote work). And Harvard is currently encouraging as many staff as possible to get prepared to work from home. If you need help negotiating a flexible schedule or work from home arrangement with your supervisor, an HUCTW organizer can help you. According to our contract, flexible schedule requests and telework requests may not be unreasonably denied. (HUCTW Agreement, pages 17-18). Hundreds of HUCTW members already work flexible schedules and work from home.
  • The HUCTW contract also contains language that indicates that “…the University should not require any employee to perform a task that endangers her/his health or safety.” (HUCTW Agreement, pages 19). If you feel like your health or safety is endangered by coming to work, talk to your doctor about your concerns and your chance of risk. You can also talk to your supervisor or call or email the HUCTW office and we can help you figure out next steps.
  • If you have other specific concerns about your particular workplace situation in light of the virus, please contact HUCTW and we can help you strategize about how to address those concerns. All conversations are confidential.

We have also pulled some key excerpts from Harvard’s Coronavirus Information that are particularly relevant to staff:

  • Employees who are at increased risk for complications from COVID-19 due to underlying health conditions are urged to consult their physician about steps they can take to protect their health. These may include requesting a temporary change in job location, hours, assignment or duties, or implementation of additional protective measures to reduce their exposure to others or chances of being infected. If an employee at risk for complications from COVID-19 and their physician agree that increased social distancing in the workplace is prudent, the employee should contact their local HR office to formally requesta temporary change
  • If departments, offices or operations are closed by Harvard or public health authorities due to COVID-19, Harvard will provide affected non-remote employees with alternate work assignments or an emergency-related paid excused absence. If this occurs, Harvard would make commitments to pay continuation for a defined period of time (e.g., 30 days), with review and possible extension as conditions change…
  • If large-scale remote work is implemented, those who will continue to work on campus – because their jobs require it and they are well, will likely be advised to maintain physical distance from others of at least 6 feet. If they have an underlying health condition or concern, they may request a change in job duties, location, hours, etc. by contacting local human resources…
  • Employees may exceed the annual limits on the use of family and dependent care sick time (normally 2 to 12 days per year for staff) to care for dependents who are ill, or whose schools or care arrangements have been disrupted due to COVID-19…
  • Employees with insufficient accrued sick leave may use up to 14 unearned sick days (they may accrue negative sick leave balances of up to 14 days) for illness, to meet self-isolation or quarantine requirements, or for the active care of others because of disruptions relating to COVID-19. Harvard will review this threshold periodically as conditions change…
  • Normally, Harvard’s flexible work guidelines prohibit remote workers from simultaneously caring for dependent family members. Those guidelines are being relaxed in these extraordinary circumstances … If working remotely with relatively self-sufficient dependents or household members at home due to COVID-19 disruptions – no need to report the use of paid time off.

These are excerpts are taken from Harvard’s Coronavirus Workplace Policies document, but you should read the complete document to see all of the new Harvard policies. These are new policies that Harvard leaders have implemented in response to the outbreak, but HUCTW leaders are in close touch with the University and may wind up negotiating with Harvard leaders to adjust policies to better meet members’ needs.

Below are links to resources that members may find useful: