An arbitrator determined March 3 that the Housing Authority can schedule Maintenance Workers for alternative work shifts, 10 months after they rejected a contract that provided the option of a four-day workweek.
Arbitrator Martin Scheinman ruled that NYCHA Maintenance Workers, who have traditionally worked from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, can be assigned to extended shifts that end at 7 p.m. or include weekend hours.
More-Flexible Work Schedules
Last April, Teamsters Local 237 and the de Blasio administration agreed to a contract deal that included a provision that would have allowed NYCHA to schedule Maintenance Workers on nights and weekends, which meant they would have worked longer days in exchange for a four-day work week.
But the following month, HA Maintenance Workers rejected the contract, which runs retroactive from Dec. 17, 2017 through Jan. 1, 2022. Of the 1,300 Maintenance Workers, about 60 percent did not return ballots, with 357 voting against the contract and 210 voting in favor. The pact also includes a 2-percent raise retroactive to Jan. 17, 2018, a 2.25-percent increase retroactive to Dec. 7, 2018 and a 3-percent effective hike March 17.
During arbitration, the union argued that there were still safety issues that the city needed to address, including broken front doors and light fixtures, before staff could be assigned to work nights. NYCHA, which last month had 375,730 open work orders, said that the extended hours were necessary in order to speed repairs.
In his decision, Mr. Scheinman wrote that the city “credibly demonstrated its need for expanded hours beyond the traditional work day, to enable completion of maintenance and repairs at times when residents are more predictably at home.”
But he also believed the union raised legitimate safety concerns, and said that he would monitor the city’s progress in resolving the issue.
NYCHA spokeswoman Barbara Brancaccio said that “expanded development maintenance staff coverage is key to significantly improving basic, important quality of life services for our residents.”
But several Maintenance Workers told The Chief that they were frustrated by the outcome of the arbitration, and believed that the union’s leadership did not do enough to fight for members.
A main point of contention, which was brought up during the process, was that Maintenance Workers often performed out-of-title duties, included carpentry and roofing, that earned higher pay by skilled-trades workers.
Cites Pay Disparity
Kevin Keenan, who was on the negotiating committee for HA Maintenance Workers, stated they performed similar work to Laborers represented by District Council 37, but earned about $5 less per hour.
“People are aggravated,” he said. “For the work we do, we deserve more.”
Robert Guilbe, Jr., who was also on the negotiating committee and ran in last year’s election for vice president against incumbent Ruben Torres, said that the raises worked out to an additional $2.16 per hour over four years, which “doesn’t even keep up with the cost of living.”
“I can’t believe that the arbitrator didn’t award any more money when we proved that we work more than 10 percent out of title. We’re basically skilled-trades [workers] without the pay,” Mr. Guilbe said.
Maintenance Worker George Contoveros said that “a lot of Maintenance Workers feel they’ve been railroaded.” He also believed that there was little transparency in the arbitration process.
‘Did Best I Could’
Teamsters Local 237 President Gregory Floyd said that the decision would soon be mailed out to all members. “If they felt the arbitrator was going to give them more, I can’t help that; all I know is I did the best that I could,” he said during a phone interview.
The union had negotiated a similar schedule change for Caretakers, which has received mixed reactions from staff. Last October, a Manhattan Supreme Court Justice granted a temporary restraining order blocking NYCHA from scheduling the weekend and night shifts due to safety concerns, a decision which was overturned shortly after.
In his decision, Mr. Scheinman wrote that determining whether staff performed out-of-title work that deserved additional pay should be made through the grievance process. Mr. Floyd also stated that the union could not prove such claims in the arbitration room, particularly because “not everyone is performing out-of-title work.”
“There are two key words: ‘show’ and ‘prove,’” he said. Those who want to file grievances for performing work above their pay grade “should have work tickets and pictures of themselves working,” he added.
And, Mr. Floyd said, there were provisions in the contract that addressed out-of-title work, including establishing a path for Maintenance Workers to be promoted to prevailing-wage titles.
We depend on the support of readers like you to help keep our publication strong and independent. Join us.