A new four-year contract between more than 5,000 public school cleaners and handypersons and their employer was reached Saturday, after the 32BJ union voted to ratify the new deal.
The New York City public school workers service 1,500 school buildings across the city and have served a critical role cleaning and sanitizing school buildings throughout the pandemic.
32BJ reached the new contract with the workers' employer, New York City School Support Services (NYCSSS), less than two weeks before the contract was set to expire on June 30.
The new contract includes establishing new protocol to resolve workplace issues, a $0.09/hour increase in contributions to the workers' Supplemental Retirement Savings Plan for a total of $.59/hour, and an agreement that DOE post job vacancies in buildings in addition to sending emails to members in the building where vacancies or newly created positions occur.
Additionally, the new contract also secures improved language regarding sexual harassment & discrimination protections, and a $500 annual bonus for workers who are required to operate boilers, standpipes or sprinkler systems in buildings with 55,000 sq. feet or below.
Donna Perez, a handyperson in Queens, said she was grateful for the union fighting through a tough negotiation where "we did not always feel respected by our employer," adding the school staff needed wins after such a tough year.
"Building service workers have been put through unspeakable trauma over the past year, including losing co-workers to the Coronavirus. This new contract recognizes the value of our work and the pain of our sacrifices," she said.
The starting wage for cleaners in NYC's public school buildings is $27.87 an hour, and $30.45 an hour for handypersons, and both receive employer-paid family health benefits and a pension fund.
32BJ Vice President and NYC School Division Director Shirley Aldebol said the "long overdue improvements to the contract" showed the more than 5,000 school cleaners and handypersons the respect and appreciation they deserved, commensurate with their sacrifices over the past year.
"At the height of the pandemic, school cleaners and handypersons were going into school buildings covered head to toe in personal protective equipment, risking their lives and those of their families," she said.
"Through the worst of it, while students and teachers were 100% remote, school cleaners and handypersons were maintaining buildings to be used as COVID testing sites, and child care & food distribution centers."
The new contract runs through June 30, 2024.