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32BJ CONTRACT - A Fair and Equitable Agreement

Published: Spring 2014

The new four-year contract negotiated by the Realty Advisory Board on Labor Relations, Inc. (the RAB) with Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union will run until midnight on Friday, April 20, 2018. It makes a number of modifications to the previously existing contract, while maintaining all other provisions of that contract. Following is a discussion of the key changes in the 2014 contract.

WEEKLY WAGE INCREASES

CAPS ON INCREASES IN WEEKLY BENEFITS
Benefits for all members of Local 32BJ are historically negotiated in the Commercial Contract and all increases take effect on January 1st, and known for the year 2015. In this Residential Contract the practice of establishing caps on the amounts of employer payments for benefits in the outer years has been continued. Should costs exceed these caps, the difference will have to come from the wage package or from contributions by employees.

HEALTH PLAN
The 32BJ health plan is administered jointly by representatives of the Union and of the RAB. In recent years draconian measures have been implemented to control the cost of the plan without sacrificing the quality of care available to 32BJ members and their families. In the 2010 contract, a Health Study Committee was set up, with the goal of achieving savings of at least $70 million annually in the expenses of the Health Fund. This agreement continued the Health Study Committee and the savings commitment, along with a commitment to preserve a minimum reserve of 6 full months of benefits costs and operating expenses in the fund. To conform with requirements of the Affordable Care Act, the waiting period for health plan eligibility was changed from three months to 90 days. Vacation relief employees are not entitled to health fund coverage for the first five months of employment. The parties agreed that the paid leave benefits in the contract are comparable to or better than those provided in the New York City Earned Sick Time Act enacted in 2013, and therefore the provisions of that City Act are waived.

PENSION FUND
Local 32BJ has a defined benefit pension plan for its members. The pension funds are prudently invested, anticipating annual returns on the order of 7.5%. During the recent recession, the assets of the pension fund did not perform at this level, placing in the red zone designated by the Federal Pension Protection Act. A plan was put in place to bring the Pension Fund out of this red zone, by increasing pension plan contributions annually by $4 per week per employee. Recent significant improvement in the performance of the fund's investments make it reasonable to believe that the fund should be out of the red zone by the end of this contract.

LEGAL FUND
Local 32BJ provides members with basic legal services such as wills, divorces, and the sale or purchase of a home. Employer contributions to this fund have been $3 per week, or $199.60 per year. In the Commercial agreement, it was agreed to suspend this contribution for the year 2014 and restore it in 2015, continuing at the same $3 per week level in 2016 and 2017.

TRAINING FUND
The Thomas Shortman Training Fund has been so successful in securing grants for its many new programs that no increase was deemed necessary in employer contributions to this fund. At the request of management, two new classes will be offered to 32BJ members, a three part online class to help them recognize Elder Abuse and to know how to report instances, and a curriculum called Ensuring a Respectful Workplace, which will be offered at the Shortman School, and can also be requested onsite for all the staff of a building. It was also agreed to add to the number of scholarships presented annually to college or graduate school bound children of 32BJ members.

NEW HIRE RATE
The contract modified the rate and the term of starting salaries of new employees who are new to the real estate industry. Any such employee engaged after April 20, 2014 will be paid 75% of the full rate for 21 months and then 85% for the subsequent 21 months. Existing new hires who were engaged before April 21, 2014 will continue to be paid 80% of the full rate for the first 30 months of their employ.

LEAVE OF ABSENCE
All leave time provided for in this contract will run concurrently with any other leave provisions of Federal, City or State law that apply. Employees on the job for more than 2 years but less than 5 years will now be entitled to up to 120 days of (unpaid) medical leave. Employees will also be entitled to up to 4 weeks of maternity or paternity leave (also unpaid).

HOLIDAYS
Veterans Day was added to the choices for each employee's optional holiday (along with Martin Luther King Day, Eidal- Fitr, September 11th and Yom Kippur). This does not add to the number of holidays for each employee, it simply provides one more choice.

STAFFING CHANGES
The Union committed to expeditious utilization of Reduction in Force provisions and to meet to address staffing changes at buildings. If your building plans to add temporary staff or wishes to implement a reduction in force, a discussion in advance with the RAB may greatly facilitate this change.

ARBITRATION
Five arbitrators will be added to the Office of the Contract Arbitrator, which is jointly administered by the RAB and the various Unions who use its services. Arbitration has long proven to be an effective way of resolving labor disputes. It is far less costly than legal action. The contract allows for the deferral of unfair labor practices filed with the National Labor Relations Board to Arbitration.

SECURITY BACKGROUND CHECKS
In the past, employers had the right to perform a security background check on a new employee or "on change of ownership or conversion of the status of a building or employee". With this agreement, employers will also have the option of performing a security background check on current employees if there is reasonable cause. Employers must first provide written notice to the Union and to the employee, which includes the location and time of the incident causing the employer to believe that the employee may have committed an offense in connection with his or her employment. The Union may then object to the background within five days and if there remains an issue, there shall be expedited arbitration to resolve it. In the event that the Union does not object, then the security background check may be performed. Any information obtained in the security background check not directly related to the incident which gave rise to the check shall not be used for any disciplinary action against the employee. All security background checks shall be confidential and may be disclosed only to the RAB and the Union as necessary and/or as required by law.

VETERAN TRANSITION ASSISTANCE
A new contract section was added to facilitate successful transition from the military into the civilian workforce, and a Committee was created to assist in facilitating this transition.

THIS IS A PATTERN AGREEMENT
For its residential members, the RAB negotiates a pattern agreement, which each participating building has the option of signing. Buildings with particular issues may opt not to accept this contract and to continue their own negotiations with Local 32BJ. Consult the RAB at 212 889-4100 for help with such issues.

RESIDENT MANAGERS CONTRACT
Building Supers who have five or more staff members whom they supervise are generally covered by the Resident Managers Agreement which expires on June 20, 2014. The new contract terms described above will be incorporated into their new contract, and they will be subject to the salary and benefits increases listed above for Supers.

BRONX CONTRACT NEXT YEAR
The contracts discussed above cover building service employees in Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan and Staten Island that are members of Local 32BJ. There is a separate contract for Bronx buildings with 32BJ (formerly 32E) employees. It will expire on March 15, 2105. A successor contract will be negotiated by the Bronx Realty Advisory Board (BRAB).

 
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