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DPW contract is urgent business

In a September editorial, we warned that winter was coming and urged town negotiators and the DPW union to settle their differences and agree on a new contract that dealt fairly with the needs of both parties.

Meanwhile, winter has arrived and still no agreement has been signed. Perhaps it’s unfair to see a clear connection between the absence of a contract and last Friday’s poorly cleared streets and embarrassing plow truck mishaps—but it’s tempting.

Union representatives claim that current wages and benefits make it impossible to recruit—and retain—experienced personnel. The union and DPW management agree on that point, as we documented in our page 1 story. But Harvard’s negotiators apparently do not. The consequences were felt last week: employees who were unable to properly handle the town’s heavy—and expensive—equipment for snow and ice removal.

Financial uncertainty and COVID-19 may have delayed negotiations last year. But it’s been 18 months since the previous contract expired. Three months of mediation have failed, and the impasse is now in the hands of a labor department fact-finder who will eventually issue a nonbinding report, a document that, thankfully, becomes public after 10 days.

As we noted in September, Town Meeting is Harvard’s ultimate decider when it comes to approving the money to pay for a collective bargaining agreement. We urge the union and town negotiators to make haste to conclude a new three-year contract and put the necessary funding to a vote.

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