Harvard will guarantee regular pay and benefits through May 28 for University employees who are available to work but cannot perform their regular duties due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, Executive Vice President Katie N. Lapp announced in an email Friday afternoon.
The policy will cover all Harvard employees, including full-time, part-time contingent, and contracted workers, Lapp wrote in her email to University’s administrative deans and vice presidents. The policy also extends to any employee whose normal workflow was disrupted after the March 10 announcement that the University would move classes online.
Additionally, Lapp wrote that the University would provide a “financial stabilization package” to the six independent childcare centers on Harvard’s campus, enabling the centers to continue operating through June 2020. The move will guarantee employment for around 180 employees who work at the centers, which typically serve 380 families in the Boston and Cambridge area.
“For our workforce, who each day are so critical to the success of this institution, this unprecedented public health emergency has created innumerable challenges,” University Executive Vice President Katie Lapp wrote in the announcement. “The steps I share today are aimed and providing greater certainty for them in these uncertain times with regards to their pay and benefits, and greater stability for them and their families.”
The announcement comes after many campus facilities shut down as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Since asking students not to return to campus after Spring Break, President Lawrence S. Bacow and 23 other Harvard affiliates have tested positive for the novel coronavirus disease.
University employees subsequently switched to a work-from-home system as most research labs, libraries, and other academic facilities closed. Harvard initially agreed to guarantee 30 days of paid leave with benefits to employees whose workplaces closed and who could not work remotely.
Working conditions and compensation benefits have come under scrutiny amid the pandemic, with some of the University’s subcontracted employees, such as security guards, criticizing the University for not extending them the same emergency benefits as workers directly employed by Harvard. The Labor and Employment Action Project, a student advocacy organization at Harvard Law School, launched a petition which garnered more than 7,000 signatures asking the University to provide all Harvard employees full compensation for the remainder of the semester.
According to Friday’s announcement, the University will also provide pay and benefits to subcontracted employees working in dining, custodial, and security positions who cannot fulfill their contract assignments or obtain new assignments amid the coronavirus public health crisis from March 10 to May 28.
The Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers, which represents around 5,000 employees across campus, has been in ongoing talks with the University over the coronavirus’ impacts on its members, according to HUCTW President Carrie Barbash. Barbash wrote in an emailed statement that Harvard’s decision serves as an example of “good citizenship” as an employer during a difficult time for workers across the country.
Representatives from other campus unions also said they appreciated Harvard’s efforts to provide for its contracted workers in the midst of uncertain economic conditions and an unprecedented health crisis.
Harvard’s custodial workers and security officers are represented by 32BJ SEIU, a regional branch of the Service Employees International Union. Vice President Roxana Rivera wrote in an emailed statement that union members “applaud Harvard for doing the right thing.”
“Having access to pay and healthcare benefits will give the 1,000 cleaners and security officers we represent at Harvard peace of mind knowing they can stay safe and healthy while continuing to feed their families,” Rivera wrote. “These workers have been at the frontlines of fighting this virus, keeping the campus clean and safe even as students are sent home, and we’re glad that Harvard is acknowledging their important service.”
UNITE HERE Local 26, the Boston-based union that represents Harvard’s dining workers, also “commends” the University’s decision, according to President Carlos Aramayo.
"We call on all other UNITE HERE Local 26 employers to follow Harvard and compensate their food service and hotel workers during this crisis,” Aramayo wrote in an emailed statement. “Nothing can reopen until we tackle this public health crisis head-on.”
—Staff writer Davit Antonyan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Staff writer Callia A. Chuang can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @calliaachuang.