By GREGORY N. HEIRES
Members of Laborers Local 924 voted 261 to 9 in favor a new contract that provides a 5.34 percent pay rate increase and restores benefits taken away by the city after it carried out a 2012 court order for substantial hourly rate increases.
The settlement ends a 15-year period in which Laborers worked without a contract. The independent American Arbitration Associated announced the results of the mail-ballot vote on Dec. 19.
“The members have spoken with 96 percent of the voters backing the contract,” said Local 924 President Kyle Simmons. “We’re very happy with the outcome. Our members agreed with local leaders, who advised our people that the contract is a good deal.”.
The vote marks the end of a 15-year struggle.
The prolonged on again, off again contract bargaining was rooted in a disagreement over the comptroller’s finding in 2002 that the pay rates of the Laborers should be significantly increased to match the prevailing rate in the private sector. The comptroller issued another ruling, known as a “consent determination,” in 2010 that the city also disputed.
Workings for years without a contract put great finance pressure on Laborers.
With their pay frozen — until the court-ordered increase in 2012— many of the workers were forced to run up credit card bills and borrow from their pensions to get by. The economic squeeze forced some workers into bankruptcy and even caused marriages to fall apart.
The contract settlement — signed Nov. 15 — restores 11 paid holidays, some vacation days, four bereavement days, and paid jury duty and quarantine leave. New hires will receive five more vacation days (bringing the total days to 10), and veterans gained three more days up to 20 days, beginning Jan. 1.
Laborers will also be credited for lost annual leave and sick leave. The number of days credited to employees’ leave banks is based on the worker’s years of service.
The new contract covers the period from July 1, 2002, to Oct. 15, 2017.
The Laborers’ hourly rate will reach $33.07 (a 1 percent increase) in 2014, $33.57 in 2015 (1.50 percent), $33.57 (2.50 percent) in 2015, $34.41 (2.50 percent) in 2016 and $34.50 (.25 percent) in 2017.
The contract provides for a permanent $200 increase per member of the city’s welfare fund contributions.