The Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers (HUCTW) released an open letter to its members and the Harvard community on the afternoon of Friday, Feb. 5, criticizing the University and the Deans for not being specific in their communications about the current budget crisis and for not seeming to have a universal plan to deal with fiscal concerns.
“Official communications from University leaders, issued periodically as the budget crisis unfolded, did not suggest a unified University approach to the financial difficulties,” HUCTW officials wrote in what they said was the first in a series of five open letters to the University community. “The President, Vice-Presidents and Deans wrote in generalities about the need to manage resources prudently while maintaining Harvard’s high standards and ambitious agenda.”
Additionally, HUCTW wrote that the state of the University’s finances might be improving, which, it said, made its members hopeful that the current cuts would not be permanent.
“If the University financial picture continues to improve, we can expect to see an increasingly urgent hope among our staff members that the current situation is not Harvard’s ‘new normal’” HUCTW officials wrote.
The University responded to these claims by issuing a statement which acknowledged the potentially detrimental impact of the budget crisis, but was also optimistic about Harvard’s relationship with HUCTW going forward.
“The University has been working hard to navigate an extraordinarily difficult economic environment since the collapse of the global financial markets more than a year ago,” the statement read. “Still, we are hopeful that the good working relationship that exists between the HUCTW leadership and our Labor Relations team will yield a constructive dialogue and that negotiators will be able to reach an agreement that benefits both the HUCTW and the rest of the Harvard community.”
HUCTW wrote that they are specifically concerned about the effects of diminished staffing, citing the 7 percent decrease in employees in HUCTW jobs, which translates to roughly 340 fewer staff members.
“It’s really being felt very strongly in many parts of the University,” said HUCTW director Bill Jaeger. “It’s a real shock to the system.”
HUCTW officials claimed that they have received complaints from Union members about the increased workload created by layoffs, early-retirement packages, and attrition.
A University official who wished to remain anonymous said that the increase in workload is a burden that all Harvard employees have had to address.
“All business plans developed around the reductions in force considered the impact on workloads,” the University official said. “All faculty, administrators and staff have had to adjust their workloads over the past year.”
The letter also mentioned the union’s “serious concern” regarding the effects of budget cuts on “quality of our work, employee health, productivity, opportunities for learning and professional development, and work-life balance.”
—Staff writer Sofia E. Groopman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Staff writer Tara W. Merrigan can be reached at email@example.com.
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