Talk of the Union: Learning From the Past


Many of the union’s concerns relate to by-products of last year’s economic crisis and the subsequent layoffs.

Slashing the workforce has also taken a toll on the remaining employees, Jaeger says, since they must take on additional responsibilities to make up for fewer staff. HUCTW officials found that more than 60 percent of respondents to an internal survey said they had seen an increased workload in the past year due to cuts.

“A lot of departments are trying to figure out how to function in an excellent way with reduced staffing levels, and there’s a lot of rethinking and tinkering going on with schedules and job descriptions, and interface with technology and all of those work systems,” Jaeger says.

The union is also looking to expand—a longtime goal that has been renewed when laid-off HUCTW members were given priority in finding new jobs at Harvard last year.


Jaeger says that both the University and its employees have realized that union membership comes with tangible benefits, and as a result, employees “around the edges” who perform clerical or technical tasks but are not members of HUCTW have felt marginalized.

But the negotiations are likely to leave key issues unresolved, given the size and diversity of the University. While Murphy says that the University and the union are looking at the terms of joint councils, he says he does not think that the new contract will solve workload problems arising from a staff shortage.

“That wouldn’t be involved in this negotiation. That would be something that we would have to continue to look at.” University Director of Labor Relations Bill Murphy says, adding that all faculty, administrators and staff have had to adjust their workloads over the past years, and that union leaders participated in impact bargaining to adjust workload around every HUCTW position impacted.

And as in all labor negotiations, wages remain a pressing concern.

“Our negotiating challenge is to figure out together what are the appropriate ways to reward the staff and to honor the contribution that the staff have made and are making everyday, and that’s never an easy set of questions, even in more prosperous times,” Jaeger says.

While Jaeger acknowledges strained economic conditions, he also says he believes that there are clear indicators of the University’s improving financial situation.

“There are a lot of very good signs,” Jaeger says. “We’re hoping that in a number of areas in the next year we’re going to be moving closer and closer to a calm, confident, healthy, growing University.”

Murphy, however, speaks with more equanimity.

“We’re still in a time of constrained resources,” he says.

—Staff writer Sofia E. Groopman can be reached at