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Harvard Provost Garber Promises ‘Generous’ Wages as Negotiations with Clerical Workers Approach One Year

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As the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers remains locked in yearlong contract negotiations with the University, Harvard Provost Alan M. Garber ’76 said the University is committed to providing its workers “appropriately generous” compensation.

HUCTW has been bargaining for a new contract with the University since April 2022, marking its longest period of negotiations in a decade. The union’s previous contract with Harvard expired on Sept. 30, 2022, but both sides agreed to extend the current agreement until a new one could be negotiated.

During a Thursday interview, Garber acknowledged that negotiations had “been going on for a long time” but reiterated his belief that “both sides are bargaining in good faith.”

“Members of the HUCTW are indeed some of the most important members of our community,” he added.

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Wages remain one of the most pressing issues for HUCTW members, who have demanded wage increases to keep pace with rising inflation.

HUCTW President Carrie E. Barbash said in an interview Monday that though the union and Harvard are in the process of negotiating, members feel that the University needs to place greater emphasis on “how much its staff — our members — are struggling.”

“Our members haven’t, I think, had a raise in a year and a half and have really been struggling with the cost of living,” Barbash said. “We feel like the University needs to give more weight to that and is not addressing that concern in their offers.”

Garber said on Thursday that the University is dedicated to ensuring that HUCTW members “have compensation that is appropriately generous and that they will have the ability to have fulfilling work lives at Harvard.”

Harvard has seen a spike in labor activity across campus in recent months, including the formation of two new unionization campaigns: the Harvard Undergraduate Workers Union and Harvard Academic Workers-United Automobile Workers.

HUWU has since affiliated with Harvard’s graduate students union and launched a card campaign, which organizers say has achieved the threshold necessary to proceed to a formal union election through the National Labor Relations Board. HAW-UAW also launched a public card campaign and held its first rallies in February.

Still, Garber declined to comment on whether the University will voluntarily recognize HUWU and HAW-UAW, calling an announcement “premature.”

“If a union is voted in and therefore we will face collective bargaining negotiations with the union, we will act in good faith,” he added. “We will bargain in good faith as we do with all of our existing unions.”

The University, however, informed HUWU on Friday — one day after Garber’s interview — that it would not voluntarily recognize it. In an email obtained by The Crimson, Harvard Director of Labor and Employee Relations Paul R. Curran wrote that the University would only recognize HUWU through a “full and fair election” overseen by the NLRB.

“While we understand your union seeks recognition without a vote, the University is steadfast in its position that every eligible student be given the opportunity to make their voices heard on this important matter,” Curran wrote.

Mental Health Initiatives

During the Thursday interview, Garber said the University has been “working hard” to implement the eight recommendations laid out in the 2020 Mental Health Taskforce Report, which has included rolling out expanded telehealth services during the current academic year.

Harvard Counseling and Mental Health Service announced last fall that it established a partnership with TimelyCare, a virtual mental health service that provides students with 12 free counseling sessions each academic year.

“A very large number of students have used TimelyCare and the satisfaction ratings have been very, very high,” he said.

Garber said the University is dedicated to improving mental health care for all students.

“The problems of students in crisis are ideally addressed before they’re in crisis, in addition to providing them with care when they are in crisis,” Garber said.

Still, Garber said that “nobody has the perfect solution to these problems” and stressed that improving mental health across campus is a “community effort.”

“I am not saying that we should be satisfied with where we are. We continue to look for ways to improve,” he said. “The important message is it remains critical for students, faculty, and staff who face students, family members, friends to really keep an eye out for each other.”

—Staff writer Miles J. Herszenhorn can be reached at miles.herszenhorn@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @MHerszenhorn.

—Staff writer Claire Yuan can be reached at claire.yuan@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @claireyuan33.

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