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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

EDITORIAL: Consequences of parity need consideration

Published: September 23, 2005
Section: Opinions

We would like to commend the Brandeis administration for working with student and professor groups towards a common goal of equal pay for both contract and non-contract workers at Brandeis. However we want to caution anyone who uses adjectives like victory to describe this achievement. While it is an admirable goal to have workers who do the same jobs get paid the same amount, it may have unintended consequences. For example, several workers around campus have privately complained that it was students doing the negotiating in their name.

Some students reported to The Hoot that workers felt they were being bypassed in the negotiations. Although some workers were pleased that they were to receive higher pay, they noted that the groups speaking on their behalf did not take into account other costs of directly working for Brandeis. Though contract employees received less per hour, they also paid significantly less in Health Insurance premiums. As a result, contract workers now make the same as Brandeis workers, but Brandeis workers still pay much higher Health Insurance rates. Thus, this achievement which was supposed to bring parity essentially brought disparity as Brandeis workers may now have to negotiate through their Union to iron out the difference in health care costs. In the end, the per-hour salary gain by contract workers may end up being offset if the health care costs for the contract workers rise to match those of Brandeis workers — all in the name of parity, of course.

Of course, working directly for Brandeis does have other benefitsones that arent afforded to contract employees. These include educational benefits such as tutoring. However, during the days of rising health care costs, these other benefits may not be much of a consolation. Another unintended consequence may be the loss of some worker jobs. This is unacceptable, and if it becomes the case, the groups acting on behalf of the workers (in good faith) would have done more harm then good. The groups lobbying on behalf of the workers should have extensively consulted with them to learn the true consequences of their actions. From the private reports we hear, this did not happen. Sometimes it seems that the groups advocating for the workers are not entirely keeping the workers needs in mind. Though they may have good intentions, their ideas sometimes tend towards socialism rather than social justice.

Perhaps a better goal would be for all Brandeis workers to be hired directly through Brandeis, obviating the need to eliminate a disparity in the first place. But this is just one idea that if even considered would need to be discussed with everyone involved.