Old Rochester School
NEW BEDFORD, Mass.
Workers Clean Up
With First Contract
The fifteen service and maintenance workers of Old Rochester Regional
School district, members of UE Local 248, recently settled their first union contract.
Despite their small size and the School Committees attempts to delay, divide, and
diminish this first contract, these new UE members held fast to an agreement that
doesnt get everything they wanted but makes significant gains in some key areas and
brings them closer to the average wage and benefit levels for school custodial and
maintenance workers in southeastern Massachusetts.
Old Rochester Regional (ORR) workers gain an automatic wage progression
schedule for the first time; merit increases go into the dust bin of history. The
three-year contract, retroactive to July 1, 1998, increases wages by an average of $1.80
over the three years, from $10.01 to $11.81. The starting rate increases by $1.30 in the
first year. Those working second and third shifts will receive a shift premium for the
first time an additional $.15 and $.20 beginning in the third year of the contract.
Time-and-a-half overtime will now be paid after 8 hours in a day, 40 in a week, and on
Saturdays and on Sundays. Call-in pay is doubled to 2 hours at the applicable rate.
VACATIONS ... SENIORITY ...
Vacations improve dramatically for some workers. Those with 2-5 years get
an additional week. ORR workers will qualify for four weeks vacation after 10 years of
service, instead of the previous 15 years.
Seniority not who you know becomes the key factor in
determining job bids, transfers, and layoffs. The contract establishes one year of recall
rights in the event of layoffs. The union will receive prior notice of any suspension or
discharge. The school will provide shirts, as well as beepers and walkie talkies, to
improve the communication and safety of the employees, especially those on second and
ORR workers with 30 or more years of service get an additional $500
length-of-service bonus. Sick leave accumulation is improved from 15 days to 18 days a
year and the maximum accumulation is improved from 150 to 195 days. A sick leave bank is
established with union representatives on the committee.
Additional "firsts" are a three-step grievance procedure and
binding arbitration and union leave.
This bunch of roses contains a few thorns. The members agreed to give up
their half-hour paid lunch break, figuring that, in reality, they wouldnt be
spending that much more time at the school than they had in the past with a paid break.
'GETTING WHAT WE NEED ...'
"Although we didnt get everything we wanted, we are well on our
way to getting what we need," said Chief Steward Archie Akin. "We need to
get better at figuring out how to move the process along quicker and get over the delays
the lawyer would constantly put in our face. All in all, we made significant gains in some
key areas, especially for the lower paid / less senior workers.
"Our membership held together despite all the school committees
delays, which was pretty frustrating at times," said Akin. "It really is amazing
what having a union means, and what you can accomplish if you just unite and speak with
ORR workers voted 12-0 to join UE in a state labor board election on Oct.
The negotiating committee consisted of Chief Steward Dennis
"Archie" Akin, negotiating committee members Mark Greenlaw and Carl
Olsen. They were assisted by Field Org. Peter Knowlton.