The current four-year contract between building owners, including co-ops and condos, and the 30,000 workers who belong to Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union is set to expire in less than two weeks, on April 20th. As negotiations between the Realty Advisory Board, representing owners, and the union enter the home stretch, signs of strain are beginning to show, Crain's reports.
When asked about progress at the bargaining table, Kyle Bragg, the president of 32BJ, said, “I’m not feeling a lot of confidence. This is not a time for moving backwards, but a time for moving forward.”
The RAB, according to the Crain's report, is looking to cut back employees’ vacation days and sick leave, while forcing staff to cover some of their healthcare costs, which are now fully borne by employers. Another big issue is likely to be wages, given the rising rate of inflation, though no specific numbers have been proposed yet, according to Bragg.
There are seven more bargaining sessions scheduled before April 20, a union spokesperson said.
Meanwhile, many co-op and condo boards and their property managers are preparing for a possible walkout, arranging alternatives to trash collection, cleaning, security and other services. The Council of New York Cooperatives & Condominiums has distributed a 16-page manual to help boards prepare for a strike. In one typical scenario, Hoyt & Horn Management warned residents of its Brooklyn property that, in the event of a walkout, it will hire a security guard to staff the front door, but the guard won’t operate the intercom, screen guests or accept packages. Residents will have to take their own trash to the street, because compactor rooms will be closed.
There are more than 30,000 32BJ service employees — doormen, porters, handymen and others — in some 3,000 buildings in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. (Bronx workers negotiate contracts separately.) Under the current four-year contract, workers received an average annual wage and benefits increase of 3.32%, totaling 13.28% over the contract period. The cost to employer for an average doorman or porter is more than $96,000 in wages and benefits. The last strike was in 1991.
Howard Rothschild, the president of RAB, remains optimistic that a strike can be averted this year. “We will continue to work towards reaching a fair contract for both sides by April 20th,” he said.
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