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Union Negotiations Ongoing, Labor Director Murphy Departs

Union members, students, and community members marched to Memorial Church on Thursday to support the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers (HUCTW). Speakers called for salary increases and health care benefits from the University.
Union members, students, and community members marched to Memorial Church on Thursday to support the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers (HUCTW). Speakers called for salary increases and health care benefits from the University. By Ann-Marie Y Barrett
By William C. Skinner, Crimson Staff Writer

Amid contract negotiations with representatives from the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers, Harvard’s director of labor relations, Bill Murphy, left the University in early August to assume a similar position at Northeastern.

Since the spring, University and HUCTW representatives have been negotiating a new contract for union employees. According to Jaeger, the two parties met over the summer in semi-weekly sessions dealing with issues related to employee benefits like health care, alternative work arrangements, and work flexibility.

A Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Worker event in 2013.
A Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Worker event in 2013. By Ann-Marie Y Barrett

With the union’s current labor contract set to expire on Sept. 30, HUCTW Director Bill Jaeger said it came as a “surprise” that Murphy chose to depart two months prior to the negotiations’ ultimate deadline.

“We all certainly expected in the lead up to the current negotiations that he’d be leading the University’s participation in that,” Jaeger said. “It certainly is a bump in the road in our negotiations that has caused us to have to recalibrate.”

Work still remains in coming to an agreement before the contract expires at the end of the month, according to Jaeger. “We’d like to be further along than we are right now,” he said.

Susannah “Polly” Scannell ’80—who has served as the deputy director under Murphy since 2006 and joined the Office of Labor and Employee Relations in 2000—succeeded Murphy on an interim basis following his exit. Scannell declined to comment for this article.

Even with the turnover, Jaeger indicated that he hopes the negotiations will go on without delay, given that Scannell has played a central role in contract discussions over the last several years.

“Scannell is somebody who has been part of formulating the University’s approach. It’s not likely to be a striking change,” he said.

In a brief phone interview, Murphy downplayed his departure and its potential impact on the University’s negotiations with the union. Harvard works with multiple labor unions, he said, and is often involved in ongoing labor contract negotiations.

Last month, University administrators detailed more changes to health insurance options for Harvard’s nonunion faculty and staff members, following a year of faculty criticism and pushback after officials rolled out a new benefits plan last fall.

Staff writer William C. Skinner can be reached at wskinner@college.harvard.edu. Follow him on Twitter @WSkinner.

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