Q&A on Wage & Hour Policy Adherence Initiative

Beginning on Monday, February 6, Union leaders are encouraging HUCTW members to limit their work efforts to their paid work hours only, working their regular jobs and adhering strictly to the law and the Harvard-HUCTW contract with regard to wages, hours, and extra compensation. This initiative stems from the urgent need for positive progress toward fair raises in negotiations on a new union contract.

For HUCTW members who are able to participate, next week the union’s leadership will provide a message that members can send to their managers describing the program and offering answers to questions that members and their supervisors may have.

Below are some questions that we anticipate members might ask, but if you have any other questions or concerns, or if you just want to talk through how this effort applies in your job situation, please contact an HUCTW Organizer for your part of the University or write to us at huctw.info@huctw.org.  Thank you.

Q: What does it mean for HUCTW members to limit their work time only to their paid work hours?

A: In union meetings and surveys, many HUCTW members have reported that they frequently work extra hours beyond their paid work schedules without submitting for additional pay (working through their unpaid lunch, answering emails or doing unpaid work after hours), adding up to potentially thousands of hours of time. Under this initiative, participating union members would perform work only up to the weekly hours for which they are paid. Or in other words, all hours worked must be paid. This entails simply following overtime law and the corresponding contract language.  Members engaging in this initiative would also be sure to take their full unpaid meal periods (as opposed to “working through lunch”) and breaks as provided in the union contract.

Q: What does it mean for members to limit their work efforts only to normal job responsibilities?

A: Under the HUCTW Agreement, members carrying out additional work beyond their normal duties or when covering for vacant positions in their departments for more than just a week or two are eligible for extra compensation – basically, extra pay for extra work to be “set at a negotiated rate appropriate to the work performed.” During this program, HUCTW members who are asked or assigned to take on extra responsibilities to cover for vacant positions or for special projects should only do so after reaching an agreement with their departments on appropriate extra compensation. Extra compensation for extra work is a separate thing from overtime pay – extra compensation is for additional duties carried out within the regular working hours, whereas overtime pay is for hours worked outside of regular hours. A key excerpt from the this language reads: “Ordinarily, extra compensation should be paid for such work when it is anticipated that work will be performed for more than 20 work days when covering for a co-worker or for more than 7 days when covering for a supervisor. Extra compensation for such duties assigned for shorter periods of time may be considered. Extra compensation will be set at a negotiated rate appropriate to the work performed.”

Q: Is this legal?

A: Yes, it is – as a matter of fact, the central idea of this effort is that HUCTW members will apply state and federal laws and provisions of the HUCTW-Harvard Agreement strictly. In that way, the initiative actually emphasizes stronger compliance with laws and policies.

Q: Does this mean that HUCTW members would turn down overtime requests they would normally accept?

A: No, it does not. Under the HUCTW-Harvard Agreement, members “should try to accommodate [unanticipated overtime] needs of the workplace, but should not be required to [do so] …” If members’ departments have work needs beyond their regular weekly paid hours, members should follow the contractual guidelines and work the overtime if possible, but only with a clear understanding in advance that the legally-required overtime pay has been approved.

Q: What if I have concerns about the impact this would have on my co-workers, or the students or the research that I work on?

A: HUCTW members work in a wide variety of environments, types of jobs, and operational circumstances. This action is not a mandatory program that applies in exactly the same way to all HUCTW jobs. It is a strong encouragement from our union’s leadership to all members, hoping that you can find a way to participate that is true to your work experience and situation, in order to create constructive pressure toward a positive resolution of our difficult negotiations.

More details will be sent out on this initiative shortly, including an email that members who participate can send to their managers.

Please reach out to your HUCTW organizer or write to huctw.info@huctw.org if you have any questions.