District, blue-collar union reach tentative deal
by Dale Mezzacappa on Jul 11 2012
Updated 7/12, 1:00 p.m: If the tentative deal is not ratified by 32BJ membership and approved by the School Reform Commission, 362 layoffs will take effect July 24, according to a District spokesperson. If the deal is finalized, each individual employee will receive notification of his or her employment status.
The School District and its blue-collar union have reached a tentative deal that averts wholesale layoffs of the union's members, who provide cleaning, maintenance, and transportation services.
A statement from the union, District 1201 SEIU 32BJ, said that the four-year agreement "saves thousands of jobs" and that the workers "will make direct contributions to keep schools open and to help the district solve budgetary problems." A District spokesperson confirmed the tentative agreement.
Dennis Biondo, an administrator for the union, said in a post on Facebook that the agreement averts outsourcing of the services performed by 32BJ's members.
Union members will vote on the contract July 20, the statement says. The School Reform Commission would also have to approve the deal.
“This agreement will help keep public schools open, provide a clean and safe learning environment for our kids and save jobs for thousands of hard-working men and women,” said local president George Ricchezza.
District spokeswoman Evelyn Sample-Oates said that the agreement was reached after a "marathon day of talking back and forth." The day was punctuated by the mid-afternoon resumption of a recessed SRC meeting that was recessed again until Friday as talks continued.
All 2,700 workers represented by 32BJ were threatened with layoffs that were scheduled to begin Sunday with 500 pink slips. Sample-Oates said that workers who already got pink slips would likely get letters staying the layoffs, but that details of that are being worked out.
The cash-strapped District said it needed to save $50 million in costs for maintenance and transportation, and the union previously said it had offered $20 million in concessions.
City Council members also pressed the SRC to reach a settlement with the union.
The details of the agreement will be disclosed after the membership has seen it and had a chance to vote.
Chief Recovery Officer Thomas Knudsen, while lining up potential private providers, has been saying all along that he preferred to reach a deal with the union.
The full text of the union's statement follows:
TENTATIVE JOB-SAVING DEAL REACHED BETWEEN THE DISTRICT & 32BJ SEIU
Blue-Collar School Workers Contribute Tens of Millions of Dollars to Keep Schools Open
Philadelphia, PA – A tentative agreement was reached today between the Philadelphia School District and 32BJ of Service Employees International Union, pending approval by the union’s members on July 20, 2012. Under the four-year agreement that saves thousands of jobs, blue-collar workers will make direct contributions to keep schools open and to help the District solve budgetary problems. The agreement must be approved by the School Reform Commission and ratified by the members of 32BJ, after which further details will be released.
“This agreement will help keep public schools open, provide a clean and safe learning environment for our kids and saves jobs for thousands of hard-working men and women,” said local president George Ricchezza.
The school workers provide a variety of critical services that keep schools running and children safe, including making emergency repairs to school roofs, air conditioning and floors. They also contribute to the area’s economy, with their salaries alone adding almost $100 million per year to the economy.
32BJ represents more than 10,000 workers employed in K-12 school districts; including in Philadelphia; New York City; and other districts throughout New York; New Jersey and Pennsylvania. With more than 120,000 members; including 10,000 in the Philadelphia area; 32BJ is the largest property services union in the country.
Additional reporting by Benjamin Herold