The industry’s Realty Advisory Board told rallying service workers this week it won’t negotiate a new contract through the press.
As hundreds of office cleaners and other commercial building workers marched through the streets of Midtown in a rally organized by 32BJ SEIU, Howard Rothschild, president of the RAB, issued a statement noting: “We’ve said from the start, we want to reach a labor agreement that is fair to both sides and reflects the reality of today’s economy.
“In fact, our owners want a deal that helps the industry grow and thrive, so that we can create more jobs for unions like Local 32BJ and help support New York’s middle class ranks.
“We’re not going to negotiate this contract through the press. We’ve presented the union with a fair package of proposals and we hope they will continue to come to the bargaining table in good faith to reach a labor agreement before January 1.”
The union has already authorized a strike if a deal isn’t reached within two weeks.
“The workers who keep office buildings clean and running well should be able to make ends meet in our city,” said Mike Fishman, president of 32BJ. “This is about more than just getting a new contract for them; it’s about keeping our city a place that working families can afford to call home.”
The contract, which covers more than 22,000 office cleaners and building service workers, expires at 12:01 a.m., January 1. Contract talks between 32BJ and the RAB began on November 15.
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio also weighed in on the issue. At the workers rally, he said,“The 22,000 commercial office cleaners deserve a fair contract, not rollbacks that risk throwing them into economic insecurity. I urge the Realty Advisory Board to negotiate in good faith towards a contract that preserves this vital industry’s quality jobs.”
The union says the RAB wants to establish a two-tier wage and benefit structure for new hires, aimed at creating what is calls a lower-paid second class of workers, as well as other measures that it says would make it harder for current and new workers to make ends meet in New York City.
The RAB, though, says the union is misguided. “The simple truth is: operating costs are up, commercial property taxes are up and rent revenues are down dramatically since the last contract was negotiated at the end of 2007. That contract provided generous increases in wages and benefits of more than 16.5% to our workers,” said Rothschild.
“We’ve asked the union to take a fresh look at this labor agreement, understanding that today’s economy is vastly different than what it was four years ago.”
Failure to reach a new contract by 12:01 a.m. on January 1, 2012 could lead to a strike of more than 22,000 office cleaners at over 1,500 commercial office buildings citywide.
“Nobody wants a strike, but we’re ready to fight to get what we need for our families and for the families of all working people in New York,” said Anna Dziubek, a cleaner who works at an office building in downtown Manhattan.