By Matt Ellis
One of the realities of running a building services company is negotiating labor contracts with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). The union, through its east coast local, 32BJ, represents close to two million workers in more than 100 different occupations, and is the most significant representative for all building service workers in AffinEco’s footprint.
This year, building service providers in Fairfield County, Connecticut and Westchester County, New York (known as the “Fairchester” market) — as well as the Hartford and the New Haven market (New Haven is referred to simply as the Connecticut market) — have begun negotiating new contracts to cover their union workers. AffinEco is directly involved in these negotiations and, for Fairchester, sits on a select committee of service contractors that is at the table with the union negotiating team.
“We are taking an active role in negotiating because we want to be certain the contract that gets signed protects the interests of our customers as well as our employees,” said AffinEco Managing Partner Michael Diamond, who noted that for some contractors Fairchester, Connecticut and Hartford are not core markets, and therefore may not have the same amount of skin in the game. “We are a local company and we have to make sure the contract we support is something we can comfortably explain to our customers,” Diamond said.
Two primary issues are under discussion: wages and benefits, though talks will also center on terms, conditions and managerial rights.
“The union and its trustees have already projected what healthcare costs will be during the next four years. So they have a number they want to get to in this contract,” according to AffinEco Managing Partner Paul Senecal. He also points out that with regard to wages, there is a sense that the increases union workers received in the previous two labor contracts should serve as a guide.
In the agreement covering the years 2008 to 2011, union workers received a wage increase of 40 cents per year. The agreement covering the years 2012 to present gave workers a 50-cent per year increase.
As with any union negotiation, sands can shift rapidly. Diamond said his committee is hopeful a deal will be struck soon (the current deal expires on Dec. 31, 2015), but if problems persist it will likely be centered on the total economic package.
(image courtesy of cortek.com)