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Union Says Forty-Two Contingent Workers Raised to Full-Time Status

University Hall
University Hall.

Forty-two temporary and less-than-half-time workers at Harvard were offered regular staff positions in March and April following the implementation of new contract provisions for non-full time workers that went into effect in March, according to a union email sent to members Tuesday.

The new policies stemmed from an agreement reached during contract negotiations last year between the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers — Harvard’s largest union representing more than 5,000 employees — and the University.

The new contingent worker policy requires the University to provide full staff-level compensation and benefits for contingent workers — which include temporary and less-than-half-time workers — if they are employed for more than three months or for more than 14 hours per week. The rule also prohibits University departments to cycle workers between less-than-half-time and temporary status more than once.

Though the new policy officially went into effect in March, the transition is still ongoing, according to HUCTW President Carrie E. Barbash. Contingent workers who signed contracts after the new rules went into effect must wait three months to qualify for regular staff benefits.

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Barbash said she does not have exact numbers, but expects that more temporary and less-than-half-time workers will gain regular staff positions in the coming months.

“I would be shocked if there weren’t more,” Barbash said.

She said these transitions will likely happen either in June — when contingent workers who signed on in March reach the three-month maximum — or at the end of the summer, when temporary employees are typically hired for the school year.

She said the departments that decided to make the transitions in March and April were “ahead of the game.”

Barbash said there are 1,000-1,200 contingent workers at Harvard in any given week. Most of these workers, however, will not be affected by the policy because they were already being employed according to the new rules.

HUCTW pushed for the rule after its research last year revealed that around 300 temporary and part-time workers at Harvard worked “excessive” hours without overtime pay.

“What makes these 42 jobs unique is that they were working for an extended period of time as a temp or a [less-than-half-time employee], and then they were converted,” Barbash said. “That's a really positive thing for us to see because it means that the policy in some departments is working the way we intended it to.”

Temporary workers and less-than-half-time workers enjoy fewer benefits compared to those provided to regular Harvard staff members despite the similarity of their work to permanent staff, according to Barbash.

“It just seems like if these people are kind of doing this type of work regularly and not just for short projects, they should have the same benefits as everybody else,” Barbash said.

University spokesperson Jonathan L. Swain wrote in an emailed statement that there has generally been an increase in the number of these types of hires. Swain, however, wrote he could not verify the number HUCTW’s specific numbers.

The contract also established a Joint Committee on Contingent Work to ensure departments comply with the policy and requires that Harvard share monthly data on its use of contingent workers with HUCTW for analysis to identify potential contract violations.

The current HUCTW contract with the University went into effect in December 2018, after the contract negotiations dragged weeks past the expiration of their previous contract. The current three-year contract will expire in September 2021.

—Staff writer James S. Bikales can be reached at james.bikales@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @jamepdx.

—Staff writer Ruoqi Zhang can be reached at ruoqi.zhang@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @RuoqiZhang3.

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