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Old Rochester School
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 Committee’s attempts to delay, divide, and diminish this first contract, these new UE members held fast to an agreement that doesn’t 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 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 third shifts.

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 wouldn’t be spending that much more time at the school than they had in the past with a paid break.


"Although we didn’t 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 committee’s 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 one voice."

ORR workers voted 12-0 to join UE in a state labor board election on Oct. 29, 1997.

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.

UE News - 01/99

Home -> UE News -> 1999 Archives -> Article

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