Janitors’ union settles contract

The union representing 14,000 New England janitors reached a tentative agreement with a consortium of cleaning companies early Monday morning, averting a threatened strike.

Workers had authorized a strike if a deal was not reached before the contract expired at midnight on Sunday. Negotiators extended the deadline by several hours, agreeing on the tentative pact at about 2 a.m. Monday.

The four-year agreement with the Maintenance Contractors of New England increases the number of full-time jobs—the major demand of Service Employees International Union Local 615—by 680 in Boston's central business district, a 200 percent increase over the last contract.

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Currently, two-thirds of the union members work fewer than the 30 hours a week required for health insurance. New buildings of more than 450,000 square feet in the Boston and Cambridge area will be staffed by full-time workers.

The contract also increases wages 12 to 13 percent over four years, raising hourly wages for Boston area workers to $17.85 an hour by the end of the contract. It creates a minimum four-hour shift for janitors working in buildings bigger than 100,000 square feet, eliminates the probationary period for workers with more than a year of service when a building changes cleaning contractors, and forms a watchdog group to investigate unfair employment practices.

“It is by victories like this that we rebuild the middle class,” Rocio Saenz, president of Local 615, said at a press conference Monday.

“We came to an agreement that’s fair to both sides,” said Matt Ellis, spokesman for the janitorial companies. “Both sides kind of got what they wanted.”

Union members will vote on the contract later this week.