Harvard security guards ratified a temporary, year-long contract with third-party contractor Securitas on Dec. 30, 2020, maintaining healthcare benefits and securing a one-time bonus during the pandemic.
The local branch of the Service Employees International Union, 32BJ, represents approximately 300 Securitas guards and negotiated the contract.
Roxana L. Rivera, vice president of 32BJ, said the agreement is largely an extension of the previous four-year contract with Securitas, which was initially set to expire Nov. 15, 2020. Rivera said the union sought a one-year agreement with Securitas because of the pandemic, hoping that, after a year, “we would be in a better situation all around.”
Harvard contracts with Securitas North America, a division of a multinational Swedish company with 370,000 employees across the world, to handle most of its security guard operations.
Christopher Connolly, area vice president for Securitas, declined to comment for this article.
Given the economic uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic, 32BJ prioritized healthcare and wages for workers in negotiations, Rivera said.
“It secures continued healthcare coverage for the security officers and a bonus in lieu of a wage increase,” Rivera said of the new contract.
Negotiations with Securitas began in the first week of October, according to Rivera. She added that Securitas agreed to extend the previous four-year contract to Dec. 13, 2020 as talks were still on-going.
The union’s bargaining committee and Securitas reached a tentative agreement before the new Dec. 13 deadline, and voting closed on Dec. 30. More than two-thirds of the membership voted, and 96 percent of voting members favored the one-year contract, according to a text message to union members the union provided The Crimson.
According to a summary of contract changes the union provided, the new contract stipulates a $48 increase in Securitas’s contribution to workers’ health insurance, while maintaining health, dental, and vision benefits amid rising healthcare costs and the global health crisis. The agreement also guarantees a one-time bonus of $1,700 for all officers, including those who are not currently working but are still employed by Securitas.
The union originally proposed a wage increase, but accepted Securitas’s counterproposal for a one-time bonus, as the company was facing economic uncertainty and could not guarantee wage concessions, according to Rivera.
The year-long contract also includes modifications and clarifications to internal policies. The agreement streamlines channels of communication between Securitas, guards, and the union; gives guards more flexibility regarding bereavement leave; and offers similar vacant positions to employees removed from posts at the request of Harvard who have not been issued discipline.
Under the previous contract, Harvard could request a “non-disciplinary transfer” of a Securitas guard, removing them from a post, which sometimes left guards without work and pay even while still employed. In an interview with The Crimson in 2019, one guard alleged that Securitas management orchestrated her non-disciplinary transfer as retaliation for requesting time off for a medical condition and that Harvard administrators simply went along with Securitas’ request.
The new agreement with Securitas is a temporary measure, according to Rivera. The union also reached a tentative agreement with Harvard on a similar one-year contract for another group of workers at the University it represents: contracted and directly-employed custodians. Voting on that agreement will end Jan. 8.
As 32BJ gears up for another round of negotiations on longer-term contracts for both sets of employees, Rivera said the union hopes to gain more permanent protections.
“There has to be some acknowledgement of these workers as essential workers, and we’ll have to see when that time comes,” Rivera said.
—Staff writer Cara J. Chang can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @CaraChang20.
—Staff writer Meimei Xu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @meimeixu7.