The Uniformed Sanitationmen's Association May 28 overwhelmingly ratified contract terms that over slightly more than 47 months will give them 7.95 percent in wage increases while also providing significant gains in areas including longevity and annuity benefits, an improvement in their terminal leave rights and a "service credit" that rises according to experience.
Better than 98 percent of members who cast ballots, either by mail or electronically, approved the deal, with a count of 4,132 in favor and 70 against as tallied by Global Election Services. The fact that an unusually high number of the union's 6,500 members—nearly 65 percent—participated was as much a source of satisfaction as the margin by which it passed, according to USA President Harry Nespoli.
More at Stake?
"I'm just so happy that people really took time to vote," he said in a phone interview shortly after the tally was finalized. I think the virus is part of it. They're really concerned about the city financially. And it's time," alluding to the fact that the union's previous pact had expired more than 16 months ago.
It was the first contract in the current round of bargaining with the city's uniformed unions to pass muster with a union representing an entry-level title. The huge vote for the contract figured to augur well for a 36-month deal that contained the same basic raises for members of the Correction Officers' Benevolent Association on which votes were expected to be counted May 30.
Other unions representing superior officers, including NYPD Lieutenants and Captains and Sanitation Chiefs, previously produced ratifications.
City Labor Commissioner Renee Campion said in a statement, "I am happy that the city and Local 831 were able to come to an agreement that gave the union and its over-6,000 members what they needed and was pattern-conforming." The USA is Local 831 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
The SanWorker pact is the longest of this bargaining round, running about 3 and 4 months longer, respectively, than deals reached in 2018 by District Council 37 and the United Federation of Teachers. Mr. Nespoli had to stretch out his contract, which is retroactive to Jan. 20, 2019 and will run through Dec. 27, 2022, to pay for the fringe-benefit gains without pushing the cost to the city beyond that of others reached this round.
What They're Getting
Where some unions delayed payment of one or more raises by several months to offset the cost of other benefits, the SanWorker raises take effect on an annual schedule: 2.25 percent retroactive to Jan. 20 last year, 2.5 percent retroactive to that date this year, and 3 percent effective next Jan. 20.
There are two longevity-benefit upgrades, both retroactive to Jan. 20, 2019: a $405 increase in the initial step, which covers those with at least five years' service, to $2,000 annually, and a $705 bump in the 20-year step, to $5,000 a year.
There will be a "service credit" that depending on members' time in the job could be as much as $791, also retroactive to the first day of the contract. A $1-a-day increase in members' annuity funds takes effect retroactive to April 20 of this year.
And after passing on the benefit during the previous round of contract bargaining, the union negotiated an improved terminal-leave arrangement reached by the other uniformed unions as far back as 2014. Where previously they were required to work off their terminal leave at straight time, they now can cash it in prior to exiting the Sanitation Department payroll, giving them the opportunity to accrue additional overtime during their final months of service that will boost their pension allowances.
Virus, City Deficit Factors
Much of the deal was worked out by mid-March, but Mr. Nespoli contracted the coronavirus before it was finalized with Ms. Campion, delaying its submission to the union's membership by a couple of months. The large budget deficit the city has accumulated during that period because of both skyrocketing hospitalization costs and the collapse of the private-sector economy was part of what Mr. Nespoli was referring to when he talked about the added urgency that may have driven the membership vote well above the usual returns.
The virus's impact may also have made them more eager to sign off on a deal containing significant tangible benefits, including the retroactive pay members are owed from both the first two raises and the benefit gains. USA members accounted for most of the Sanitation Department's 400-plus COVID-19 cases, and four of them died from the virus. Mr. Nespoli's wife, Florence, also contracted the disease, and has since recovered.
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