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Statement Regarding University Employment and Contracting Policies


The Harvard Committee on Employment and Contracting Policies (HCECP), chaired by Professor Lawrence Katz, released its final report on December 19, 2001. It is a thoughtful and constructive document, whose recommendations were voted unanimously by a committee composed of students, faculty, union representatives, and senior administrators. At the Committee’s request, the University deferred decisions on specific recommendations until now to allow time for public comment and to permit broad consultation with deans, senior administrators, students, faculty, and other members of the campus community. Having now considered this input, I am pleased to announce that the University will adopt the Committee’s core recommendations and begin at once to ensure their effective implementation.

The Committee has produced far-reaching recommendations based on exceptionally thorough and thoughtful analysis. While the Committee considered at length arguments in favor of an externally-set wage, the report notes that many members felt that “such a plan addressed the symptoms and not the causes of the problem of declining real pay for service workers at Harvard.” Furthermore, the Committee notes that it “struggled with the problems of finding a principled way to set the living wage and with the unintended consequences that such a rigid policy could create.” To avoid these problems, the Committee recommends significant wage increases within the context of collective bargaining and the adoption of a parity wage and benefits policy that will preserve the ability of the University to outsource, but not to contractors who pay lower wages. This structure will provide important protection for workers while ensuring flexibility for all parties in the face of changing economic circumstances over time.

Equally important, the Committee urges the University to clarify the values that govern employment on campus and to adopt measures to improve the quality of work life for all workers. This last point deserves special mention. It is important to recognize that all who work at Harvard, regardless of rank or position, contribute in vital ways to the teaching and research mission of this great University. It is essential that our employment policies and practices reflect this principle.

The proposals of the Committee, once implemented, will improve materially compensation for lower wage service workers at Harvard; enhance the quality of work life for the University’s service employees and their on-campus colleagues employed by outside contractors; and break new ground in defining the relationship between employees and contracted workers doing similar jobs. Every worker on this campus and the University community as a whole stand to benefit from this important work. I hope that students, faculty, and staff will work together to support the intensive efforts that will be required to implement these wide-ranging recommendations.

With respect to the recommendations of the HCECP, the University will:

  • Open negotiations, under the terms of collective bargaining, with unions representing workers who provide custodial, retail dining, and security services, with the aim of achieving wages in the range paid to other similar workers on campus ($10.83 to $11.30 an hour);
  • Design and adopt a parity wages and benefits policy governing on-site service contractors in custodial, dining, and security services, which will eliminate the wage differential between University employees and contracted workers while permitting the University to maintain outsourcing as a means of ensuring quality, efficiency, and innovation;
  • Adopt a series of measures to clarify workplace values and expectations and to improve the quality of work life for all workers on the Harvard campus;
  • Ensure effective implementation of changes in policy and practice, and issue an annual data report on lower wage service workers on campus, to ensure that members of the University community are kept informed on an ongoing basis of trends in compensation for service workers and of the University’s progress in implementing specific measures.

In addition to these specific actions focused on our own workforce, I would like to explore ways in which the University might enhance its intellectual contributions in this area. The testimony presented to the Committee by both workers and experts points up the importance to society at large of issues relating to income inequality and the challenges faced by lower wage workers. Many students and faculty members at Harvard are actively engaged in scholarship and research on these subjects. I have begun consulting with faculty members with relevant expertise to discuss ways in which Harvard can build on this important work.

Before turning to our detailed plans for implementation, I want to express my personal thanks, again, to Professor Katz and to the members of the Committee for the rigor, dedication, and good faith with which they worked through these complex issues. The entire University owes the Committee a debt of gratitude.

Plans for implementation

The paragraphs that follow provide an overview of the specific actions the University will undertake in the areas addressed by the Committee.

Wages and benefits

With respect to compensation, the University is prepared to renegotiate the wage provisions in its existing collective bargaining agreements with unions representing custodians, security and parking workers, and dining service workers paid at retail rates. The goal will be to achieve entry-level wages for these groups in line with the range paid to similar Harvard workers whose jobs have not been affected by outsourcing. As the Committee notes, this range is $10.83 to $11.30 an hour.

The University has already reopened negotiations with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Local 254, which represents custodial workers. As the Committee report suggests, we will turn to the wage portions of the other contracts when the SEIU negotiations are completed. With the expectation of cooperation by all parties, we anticipate that all of these negotiations will be completed or in progress by no later than May 2002.

Parity wage and benefits policy

As a means of reducing downward pressure on wages while preserving outsourcing as an option to ensure quality, efficiency, and innovation in on-campus services, the Committee recommends that the University design and adopt a parity wages and benefits policy. Such a policy would require that service contractors in custodial, dining, and security services pay their on-campus workers wages and benefits substantially equivalent to those paid to unionized Harvard employees in the same service sector. Because parity wages and benefits will provide important safeguards for workers in the context of collective bargaining and outsourcing, the University will follow the Committee’s recommendation. In cases in which no in-house Harvard employees work in the same service sector, parity wages and benefits shall be based on those of similarly situated in-house unionized employees.

With respect to the benefits component of parity compensation, the University will require parity to the extent practicable and legally permissible. Where identical benefits for contracted workers are not a permissible or practical alternative, the University will require that the total compensation package for contracted workers be financially equivalent to that paid to the University’s own employees.

Health benefits

The Committee expressed concern about the affordability of health insurance for lower wage employees, but it was not charged with making recommendations in this area. The University has secured an outside assessment of its health insurance benefits structure and is prepared to explore questions of affordability for lower wage workers as part of union negotiations.

Quality of work life

As noted above, the Committee concerned itself not only with compensation, but with various factors affecting the quality of work life for Harvard’s workers. Having heard testimony from workers that they often felt invisible or marginalized, the Committee affirmed the important principle that Harvard’s service workers should be viewed as an “integral and valued part of the community and as a vital component of Harvard’s teaching and research mission.” Our task is to ensure that our employment policies and practices embody this principle.

The University is in the process of developing a statement of workplace values and norms that will include a commitment to dignity and respect for on-campus workers at all levels and a statement of rights and responsibilities in University employment. We will also adopt mechanisms to ensure that such values are incorporated into the work experience of campus employees and contracted workers. In addition, as the Committee recommends, the University will:

  • Develop a training program for managers of service contracts and direct supervisors of service workers, whether such workers are employed by Harvard or by outside contractors;
  • Enhance the staffing and capacity of the Office of Human Resources, as necessary, to provide ready access by service workers to information concerning benefits, employment opportunities, and other relevant areas, making provision, as necessary, for the publication of key materials in a range of languages;
  • Ensure that policies relating to lower wage workers, including new policies adopted pursuant to this Committee report, are communicated to Harvard managers and supervisors of contracted workers and those who oversee service contracts;
  • Evaluate and expand the Bridge program (described below) and explore other avenues for enhancing education and training opportunities available to Harvard workers;
  • Administer work environment surveys to employees of the Central Administration and the schools;
  • Strengthen collective bargaining relationships with unions representing workers in the service sectors;
  • Continue to respect the rights of workers to organize and seek union representation.

Though the Committee was asked to focus its efforts on service workers, all 15,000 employees and the on-campus workers of contractors contribute in vital ways to the life and work of the University. It is essential that our employment policies and practices embody a recognition of this fact. With the help of deans, senior administrators, faculty members, and managers throughout the University, we will work toward this end. To be successful, we will need to work together as a community, recognizing that broad, cultural change cannot be achieved without good faith and hard work, and that it cannot be achieved overnight.


The Committee rightly emphasized the importance of a timely and effective strategy for implementation of these recommendations. I have discussed with deans and senior administrators the importance of effective implementation and received assurances that they will work to implement these measures throughout the University. Our specific plans will continue to evolve as we move forward, but I would like to highlight the following steps from the outset:

  • As noted, bargaining sessions with SEIU, Local 254, representing custodians are underway. Negotiations on wages with the unions representing retail dining service and security workers will follow.
  • The University is working to complete a parity wage and benefits policy not later than March 31, 2002. The policy will be applied to existing contracts with outside service contractors once wage negotiations with the relevant unions are completed.
  • With respect to supervisory training, we are in the process of appointing a committee composed of faculty, administrators and workers from different unions, whose charge it will be to develop, by the end of the academic year, a plan for training those who supervise service employees, whether they are Harvard employees or contracted employees.
  • The University will continue to offer and enhance the Harvard Bridge to Learning and Literacy Program with courses in English as a Second Language, Literacy, Speaking and Listening, GED/Academic Preparation, and computer use, to all lower-paid service workers, in-house or contracted, with paid release time for attendance at classes. The Program has expanded from 220 participants in spring 2001, to 364 in fall 2001, to an estimated 406 for spring 2002, including workers from the Longwood Medical Area. We will conduct a comprehensive program evaluation after the end of the spring semester to assess the program’s effectiveness and determine whether it should be expanded.
  • Beginning in the summer of 2002, the Office of Human Resources will convene a broad-based committee to determine an appropriate instrument to use in the future for regular University-wide surveys of employee satisfaction.
  • With respect to employee surveys, the “Great Place to Work Survey,” first administered to the Central Administration and several schools in 1999, will be repeated in March 2002 for the Central Administration and five schools as well as for service workers employed by the Medical School. Results will be available for managers of participating departments approximately two months later. The remaining Schools will conduct employee surveys within eighteen months.
  • In May 2002, the University will prepare and make publicly available a report that outlines: our progress on implementation; the results of collective bargaining with the service unions; and our progress with respect to extending parity wages and benefits to contractors.
  • Beginning in the spring of 2003, the University will, as the Committee recommends, prepare and make publicly available an annual data report on lower wage workers at Harvard.

When the implementation report is released this spring, I hope to meet with those who served on the Harvard Committee on Employment and Contracting Policies to review the progress made and discuss plans going forward. In addition, I plan to consult on an ongoing basis with Lawrence Katz with respect to issues relating to the implementation of the Committee’s recommendations.

While the Office of Human Resources will have primary responsibility for implementing these recommendations and other employment policies and practices, the University’s in-house auditing unit, Risk Management and Audit Services, will monitor the University’s performance in this area on an ongoing basis.

No minimum wage floor

Consistent with the recommendation of a majority of the Committee, the University will not adopt a minimum wage floor or “backstop” wage in addition to collectively-bargained wages and benefits combined with a parity wage and benefits policy. The Committee’s reasoning on this point is persuasive: “Given that the committee is recommending and expecting short-run wage increases to levels above the $10.68 level adopted as the living wage by the City of Cambridge and by some living wage advocates, and given that the parity wage should eliminate the primary cause of downward pressure on union pay (the threat of outsourcing to contractors paying significantly lower wages), the majority of committee members felt that the parties to collective bargaining were in a better position to determine the future course of pay at Harvard and avoid the potential problems and unintended consequences that a fixed and permanent uniform wage might create.” In short, the parity wage and benefits policy, when combined with collective bargaining, will provide a powerful safeguard for workers, while retaining for all parties to collective bargaining important flexibility to adapt to changing economic circumstances over time.


We have important work ahead to make sure that we successfully implement throughout the University the policies and practices outlined above. I urge the entire Harvard community to join me in the task of translating vision into reality in this important domain of University life.