Campus & Community

Joint statement on ‘casual’ employees released

4 min read

A message from Provost Harvey V. Fineberg: This statement was prepared jointly by HUCTW and representatives of the University on “casual” employees. The statement summarizes the very productive work done by the joint committee working on this issue. I am confident that you will join me in supporting the sentiments in the statement, and that we can all work toward future compliance in both the letter and the spirit of the rules on casual workers.

Text of joint statement

Over the past 18 months, Harvard University and the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers (HUCTW) have held extensive discussions on the appropriate use of “casual” employees. As a result of those discussions, we have reached understandings in two areas: the strengthening and clarification of policies governing casual employment, and the correction of past problems concerning the use of the casual payroll.

A settlement agreement on past casual problems has already been implemented. The terms of that settlement have allowed us to identify instances where casual employment policies have been violated, and to apply appropriate remedies. Those remedies include conversion to regular employment with benefits for some long-term casuals, and lump-sum payments for those and others.

In the area of future policies, these discussions have confirmed the parties’ support for basic principles underlying our negotiated understandings. It is a fundamental ideal of the Harvard workplace that, although casual staffing is a necessary employment vehicle at Harvard, the use of casual workers should be exceptional and strictly limited, and never at the expense of regular benefited employment. In other words, everyone who does regular Harvard work on a regular basis deserves the benefits of regular employment status.

Casual employment is designed for situations where short-term increases in workload or short-term staffing shortages require a brief expansion in employment. Also, casual employment may be appropriate where departments have ongoing, but minimal, staffing needs for which maintaining a regular position is not practically possible.

In the course of our recent discussions, we have encountered a number of practices in casual employment that may meet the letter, but certainly violate the spirit, of our agreed-upon policies. We believe these practices need to be actively discouraged. Specifically, the parties have identified the following as problematic practices:

• use of a number of casuals in the same work function, none of whom works over 17.5 hours per week, but whose combined hours exceed 17.5 hours per week;

• use of a series of casuals in the same work function, none of whom works more that 13 weeks, but whose combined employment exceeds 13 weeks;

• employment of a casual worker with occasional brief breaks in employment, scheduled so that the worker never accumulates a solid 13-week span of employment.

In this discussion process, we have also noted the importance of emphasizing policies that ensure that regular employment is not unnecessarily rigid or confining. The HUCTW-Harvard Agreement contains a strong endorsement of flexible or variable work schedules in the context of regular employment. Further, the University and HUCTW have negotiated provisions allowing for temporary or “term” regular positions with benefits, where employment needs are long term (e.g., more that three months) but will terminate at a specific date.

In summary, Harvard and HUCTW have agreed to reaffirm support for a policy framework in which regular employment with benefits is the preferred mode of staffing. Employment plans should be organized around an effort to create and expand regular work opportunities and to minimize the use of casuals (with legitimate exceptions for Harvard students, Harvard retirees, and other special situations, as defined in our Agreement).

We have further agreed that this policy framework for casual employment requires vigorous and ongoing efforts in communication and education across the Harvard campus, and such training and communications efforts are now under way. It is our hope that all members of the Harvard community will continue to pursue the clear, consistent application of casual work policies.

Bill Jaeger, HUCTW

Adrienne Landau, HUCTW

Donene Williams, HUCTW

Anne Taylor, Vice President and General Counsel

Polly Price, Associate Vice President for Human Resources

Jeff Peters, Associate Dean for Administrative Resources, FAS