Residential Strike Averted Building Workers Union Reaches Agreement

Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) reached agreement on a new three-year contract, averting a potentially costly and damaging strike that would have impacted more than a million apartment dwellers in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island and Queens.

The union, which represents about 28,000 residential building service workers in over 10,000 apartment buildings struck an accord with the Realty Advisory Board on Labor Relations Committee (RAB) that calls for wage hikes of 2.72 percent in the first year, 2.8 percent in the second year, and 2.87 percent in the third year. With health insurance and other benefits included, the increases will average around 3.5 percent each year, according to Jim Grossman, an RAB spokesman.

Weekly Salary Increases

Under the current contract, doormen and janitors earn approximately $34,000 annually, which the RAB had claimed was one of the highest wages in the nation. The new agreement calls for wage increases of $18, $19, and $20 per week for doormen, porters, concierges and elevator operators. Handymen will receive $20, $21, and $22 per week over the life of the contract, and superintendents will get a weekly $21, $21 and $23 increase in salary over the three years. In the health plan and pension funds, employer contributions were also increased. Because the union was seeking expanded job training to account for additional duties related to security, both sides agreed to form a committee to develop a course for building safety awareness and offer this training to all contracted employees.

The pact also calls for extended retirement benefits for members with more than 25 years of service; an expanded network of dental and optical providers in the health care plan; the recognition of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday as an official holiday that will take the place of Lincoln's birthday; and the issuance of $200 as an annual attendance bonus. The contract terms extend to April 20, 2006.

The last Local 32BJ job action was an 11-day-long strike in 1991 and workers had walked the picket lines four times since the union's inception in 1932.

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