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Published: April 20, 1997

Building Employees' Strike Averted

Agreement came several hours before the midnight expiration of the contract between Local 32B-32J of the Building Service Employees International Union and residential apartment buildings in Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan and Staten Island that are members of the Realty Advisory Board on Labor Relations, Inc. (RAB). The Union leadership and the RAB negotiating team joined Mayor Giuliani for a 5 PM press conference on Sunday, April 20, 1997, to announce that a successor contract had been agreed upon, which would take effect the next day, and that there would be no strike of apartment building workers.


For several months prior to the contract deadline, CNYC and the RAB had conducted meetings separately and in unison, to communicate with building owners and with leaders in cooperatives and condominiums throughout the city, to listen to their needs and to help ensure that they would be able to withstand an employee strike if one should occur.

Careful preparedness had included hiring of security personnel, organizing volunteers to staff the front door and perform other necessary employee tasks in the building, distributing passes or keys to all those authorized to come into the building, and requesting special cooperation in dealing with recyclables. As it had done in the 1994 negotiation, the RAB established a fax chain to communicate quickly with all interested RAB members; all notices were also posted on this Website.

The Union, on its side, had similarly prepared its members, and had secured a vote of membership authorizing the Union leadership to declare a strike.


Well-prepared for the worst, both sides worked for the best, negotiating in good faith, targeting the issues of most importance, and reaching an early agreement to continue the existing Apartment Building Agreement from April 21, 1997, until midnight on April 20, 2000, with the following modifications:

Entry Wage. Paralleling the contract achieved in the commercial sector in 1996, new hires to the industry will be paid at 80% of full wages during a 30-month period. After three months, the new employee becomes eligible for health benefits; after 24 months, the employee becomes eligible for all other benefits. At the end of 30 months, that employee's salary increases to full wage.

Superintendents of Small Buildings Included. Effective January 1, 1999, a new superintendent in a building with no more than five employees (including the superintendent) will also be subject to the entry wage.

Vacation-Relief Employees. Temporary employees hired as vacation replacements (for a period of up to five months) are paid at 60% of full wage and receive no benefits.

Single Sick Days. Of their total of 10 sick days, employees may now take four single sick days (previously three single days).

Meal Allowance Increase. The meal allowance for employees working more than four overtime hours is raised to $13 in the first year, $14 in the second year and $15 in the third year of the contract.

Cost Of Living Adjustment. COLA provisions in the contract were fine-tuned to provide that, during the first year of the agreement, for each percentage point that the February CPI-W exceeds 6.5%, employees receive an increase of 10 cents per hour to a maximum of 20 cents per hour. In the second and third years of the contract the increase is triggered when the CPI-W exceeds 6%.

Federal Family and Medical Leave Act. Affected employers will observe the provisions of the federal family leave act.


  • Effective April 21, 1997, employees receive a wage increase of $15 per week; handy persons receive an increase of $17, and superintendents covered by this contract receive an increase of $18.
  • Effective April 21, 1998, employees receive a wage increase of $15 per week; handy persons receive an increase of $17, and superintendents covered by this contract receive an increase of $17.
  • Effective April 21, 1999, employees receive a wage increase of $16 per week; handy persons receive an increase of $18, and superintendents covered by this contract receive an increase of $19.

Pension Increased. Following the terms negotiated in the commercial contract, retiring employees now receive a monthly pension of $850 (previously $800).

Pension Fund. Effective January 1, 1998, there is an additional contribution of $2.20 per week to the pension fund, bringing the weekly contribution to $29.72 per employee.

Thomas Shortman Training Fund.

  • Effective July 1, 1997, for a period of one year, the quarterly contributions to the Shortman Training Fund increase to $42.50 per employee (this is $3.27 per week or an increase of $1.55 over the present contribution of $1.72 per week).
  • Effective July 1, 1998, the quarterly contribution to the Shortman Training Fund reverts to $26.00 per employee ($2.00 per week).

Annuity Contribution. Beginning January 1, 1999, employers will contribute an additional $1 per week to the annuity fund for each employer, bringing the total annuity contribution to $8 per week.

Birthday Exchanged for Personal Day. The employee's birthday is eliminated as a holiday, but one additional personal day has been substituted.

Vacation Adjustment

  • Employees who have worked for 21 years receive four weeks and one day of vacation.
  • Employees who have worked for 22 years receive four weeks and two days of vacation.
  • Employees who have worked for 23 years receive four weeks and three days of vacation.
  • Employees who have worked for 24 years receive four weeks and four days of vacation.

Health Plan. The health plan will be modified to offer employees the option of a PPO (preferred provider option) plan. Instead of the present system with its deductible and requisite paperwork, members will be able to visit a doctor chosen from an approved list and simply pay $10 for the visit.

Electronic Deposit. At the option of the employer, employees may be paid by electronic direct deposit, provided there is no additional cost to the employee.

Grievance Procedure in Discrimination Cases. Discrimination claims will be subject to the contractual grievance and arbitration procedures.

Wording Change Regarding Subcontractors. A small change in wording clarifies the intent of the provision on regulating subcontracting.

Because the Union had withdrawn from multi-employer bargaining, the agreement described above is simply a pattern agreement. Each building that is a member of the Realty Advisory Board on Labor Relations, Inc. will now have the option of subscribing to this contract. Forms are being sent to each member building describing in detail all of the changes in contract terms. Your building will have until the end of June to sign this contract. For questions, contact the RAB at (212) 889-4100.


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