No raises - but no layoffs - for school district's blue-collar workers

Posted: July 25, 2012

The SchooL Reform Commission on Monday unanimously approved a contract ratified by its blue-collar workers — a deal that avoids layoffs thanks to what chief recovery officer Thomas Knudsen called a "precedent-setting" arrangement.

Members of 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union, depending on one of three salary categories, will have between $5 and $45 deducted each week from their pay, which will go toward reducing the district's $282 million deficit, officials said after the SRC meeting. SEIU Local 1201 district leader George Ricchezza said that the contributions would total $100 million over the next four years.

The union also nixed two planned wage increases — a 3 percent jump set for earlier this year and another raise that would have kicked in Jan. 1.

Union membership had been on notice that most of its 2,700 workers — cleaners, building engineers, bus drivers and other blue-collar positions — would lose their jobs if a compromise wasn't reached. The contract, which ends in August 2016, avoids layoffs for now, but come 2014 and 2015, it stipulates that up to 75 transportation workers will be laid off. Also, for every school that closes, four SEIU workers will lose their jobs.

The district, however, cannot increase outsourcing in transportation and at facilities.

The contract "is going to be in the best interest of the school district, the best interest of Local 32BJ, but more importantly, for the children that go to school," Ricchezza said.

Calling the deductions "pretty substantial," Ricchezza said that "taking money out of someone's pocket today isn't an easy thing to do, but our members stepped up."

Contact Regina Medina at 215-854-5985 or medinar@phillynews.com. Follow her on Twitter @reginamedina

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