Harvard Graduate Students Union-United Automobile Workers filed a Step One grievance against the University Friday over “unacceptable” complications and delays in pay for graduate student workers living abroad due to the pandemic.
To comply with international law, Harvard announced in December 2020 that it would move graduate students, staff, and faculty living abroad to a third-party payroll system after Jan. 1. Through the third-party payroll system, graduate students living abroad are employed and paid by local third-party entities as they continue to teach or research for the University.
HGSU-UAW filed the grievance on April 2 after approximately 40 graduate students reported delays in pay, lack of compensation, and additional processing fees under the third-party payroll system. Union leadership said they first noticed pay complications in February.
“Months-long pay delays for students living abroad, with essentially no warning, cannot continue and cannot happen again,” the union wrote in a statement. “Harvard should pay all student workers what they are due and commit to doing so in the future.”
Under the third-party payroll system, approximately 300 Harvard employees living abroad due to the pandemic now receive pay from local Harvard-affiliated offices or third-party payroll companies — four times the number of people in past years.
When an academic department is interested in hiring an employee living abroad, Harvard Global Support Services works with the department to find international pay options on a case-by-case basis. Global Support Services then helps the employee abroad access a third-party payroll company or a local Harvard-affiliated office based on their country of residence.
According to Maya I. Anjur-Dietrich, the co-chair of HGSU-UAW’s Contract Education and Enforcement Committee, department administrators have been working with their student workers to adjust to the University’s modified payroll policy.
“Many department administrators have been working very hard to get student workers in their departments paid,” Anjur-Dietrich wrote in an email. “We are hopeful that the administration will work with student workers and our union to make sure that everyone is compensated properly for their teaching and research labor while abroad.”
Filing a Step One grievance is only one part of the union’s efforts to ensure its members receive timely compensation, Anjur-Dietrich added. HGSU-UAW is also reaching out to its membership to increase awareness around the pay due complications and determine how many students might be affected on the third-party payroll system.
Harvard spokesperson Jason A. Newton declined to comment. The University has 10 business days to respond to the union’s grievance, per its contract with HGSU-UAW. If Harvard denies the grievance, the parties will proceed to Step Two, during which Provost Alan M. Garber ’76 will try to mediate a settlement.
“At this point, we will continue to advocate for student workers, and we are waiting for the University administration to respond to our step 1 grievance filing,” Anjur-Dietrich wrote.
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