HUCTW negotiations with Harvard are now in their fourth month and Union negotiators want to share an update with you on how the talks are progressing and what’s on the table. In addition to the summary below, HUCTW leaders will also be holding a round of lunchtime meetings with members about negotiations where we can have deeper discussions and answer questions.
Contract negotiations are always challenging, with HUCTW and Harvard bringing different perspectives and interests to the table, but all of our meetings with management representatives to date have been productive and respectful. University and Union negotiators have been meeting once a week for several hours, and there are also smaller union-management subgroups and planning groups, which are meeting most weeks as well. In between meetings, HUCTW negotiators and Executive Board members research and analyze data, and strategize and discuss plans for upcoming sessions.
The following is a list of the main topics being discussed:
Our last negotiated salary increase from the 2015-2018 contract was delivered on October 1, 2017, so our current negotiations will determine our 2018 salary increase. Typically, Harvard-HUCTW contracts have lasted three years and included three years of salary increases.
To provide background information for pay program negotiations, HUCTW negotiators delivered several presentations, with a focus on HUCTW member finances. Union negotiators used data and member stories from the 2018 Negotiations Survey to illustrate difficult choices members have to make in our financial lives, including large, competing costs such as renting or buying a home in the greater-Boston area, childcare, eldercare, health care, student debt, credit card debt, saving for retirement, and commuting costs, among others. Negotiators discussed how, in order to build financial security, members need salary increases that allow them to make substantive economic progress beyond simply keeping up with inflation.
In recent years, HUCTW members and leaders have observed that many Harvard departments are increasingly reliant on contingent workers in several categories, including temporary workers (temps), less than half time employees (LHTs), independent contractors, and workers from outsourcing firms, among others. Contingent workers are typically paid less than regular staff, and they don’t have access to any of the health benefits, paid time off, and protections of HUCTW employees. Although a portion of contingent worker use does appear to be legitimate (for example, there are many departments using temps for short term needs of three months or less), there is also a growing number of contingent workers who are doing regular staff work on a regular basis and should be eligible for benefits and covered under the HUCTW Agreement. In this round of talks, Union negotiators are looking closely at how, when, and why contingent workers are being utilized across Harvard, to determine the size and nature of the problem, and how we can work with University leadership to address it.
In the last round of contract negotiations (2015 – 2018), HUCTW and the University agreed on a balanced approach to containing the cost of health care benefits, introducing small changes in co-payments and avoiding the high patient cost of coinsurance and deductibles that Harvard introduced into the non-union health care plans. Harvard and HUCTW also agreed to reduce employee premium costs for HUCTW members making less than $55,000, to enhance our copayment reimbursement plan to cover more types of copayments, and to introduce a premium rebate program to encourage members to consider choosing the Harvard University Group Health Plan (HUGHP) as their health insurance provider.
As a result of these significant changes in the last round of talks, there are no structural or design changes being discussed to health care plans in this round of negotiations. HUCTW would like to continue to improve the copayment reimbursement plan, to ensure that the salary tiers that determine how much members pay in health care premiums are adjusted with inflation, to find ways to protect Union retirees from unexpected cost increases, and to evaluate whether the HUGHP incentive program we introduced in the last round of talks can be expanded and improved.
Policies and Language:
The term “policies and language” covers a wide set of disparate but important topics introduced by the Union and by management that each party feels could use more clarification in phrasing or in implementation. Some areas that HUCTW has brought to these discussions include: term positions (these are benefited HUCTW positions whose employment ends after a certain number of months or years), time away from work for learning, and salary increases outside of the annual union increase, among others.
Over the last three decades, Harvard and HUCTW have negotiated 10 contracts together, building an innovative package of programs in pay, healthcare, workplace problem-solving, flexible scheduling, paid time-off, education, childcare, and other significant policy areas. Although the University and the Union have sometimes faced significant challenges during negotiations, the strength, energy, and creativity of our members enabled us to find ways to work through those challenges together. This history sets the stage for our current round of negotiations, and creates a strong foundation for the 11th Harvard-HUCTW contract to be a success.
HUCTW leaders and negotiators look forward to sharing more details with you during the upcoming lunchtime meetings. You should be receiving an email in the next month about one of these meetings from your HUCTW organizers.
As always, please reach out to one of your HUCTW organizers or the HUCTW office (firstname.lastname@example.org, 617-661-8289) if you have any questions, concerns, or thoughts you’d like to share in the meantime.