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Harvard Police Union and University to Enter Federal Mediation in Contract Negotiations

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More than a year after Harvard’s contract with its police union expired, the two sides are set to enter federal mediation in their negotiations over a new contract.

Harvard police officers have been working without a contract since December 2020, when the school’s contract with the Harvard University Police Association expired. University spokesperson Jason A. Newton confirmed last week the two sides will begin meeting with a mediator, with the first session scheduled for April 27.

Martin Callaghan, a commissioner at the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, will mediate the discussions.

The president of the Harvard University Police Association, Michael A. Arsenault, declined to comment.

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Callaghan wrote in an email that he will meet privately with both sides in addition to joint mediation sessions, though he said all discussions “are totally confidential.”

“I may offer procedural or substantive recommendations, explore alternatives, engage in shuttle diplomacy, information-sharing where appropriate, and rephrasing proposals so that both sides fully comprehend each other’s position,” Callaghan wrote.

In the interim between contracts, most of the previous agreement’s terms have remained in effect.

As special Massachusetts State Police officers, HUPD officers are prohibited by law from going on strike or halting labor.

In December 2020, the HUPA and University met in arbitration to discuss a work schedule change that the union alleged violated its contract with the school. The University had notified HUPA the previous May that it would increase the number of consecutive days that officers work due to financial strain caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The negotiations will determine the first new collective bargaining agreement under HUPD Chief Victor A. Clay, who took over the department last July. It also marks the first contract negotiations for Arsenault and new HUPA leadership.

“While FMCS mediators bring their experience and specific skill set to the process, I have no power to impose an agreement,” Callaghan wrote. “The parties determine their own outcomes and solutions.”

—Staff writer Sarah Girma can be reached at sarah.girma@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter at @SarahGirma_.

—Staff writer Brandon L. Kingdollar can be reached at brandon.kingdollar@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter at @newskingdollar.

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