OAKLAND, Calif. — More than 450 janitors who clean Safeway supermarkets in Northern California voted on Saturday to ratify a tentative collective bargaining agreement with four janitorial services contractors employed by Safeway.
The agreement maintains health care and pension benefits, and raises the base wage rate for experienced workers up to $14.05 per hour, above industry standards, according to SEIU United Service Workers West, Local 1877 here, the union representing the janitors.
“I’m thrilled that we were finally able to reach an agreement with Safeway’s contractors that will protect our quality jobs and keep our communities healthy,” said Zenon Angeles, a supermarket janitor and member of the SEIU Local 1877 Executive Board. “By coming together as a union, we were able to win a strong contract that will boost our wages, maintain our health care coverage and pension, and safeguard our safety and health.”
In a statement, ABM Janitorial Services, New York, one of the four contractors, said, “We are pleased to achieve resolution in the mutual best interest of workers, employers and customers. Workers will receive higher wages and enhanced health benefits, and the agreement provides protection for all customers.” The other three contractors are Premier Floor Care, Crystal Cleaning Service and Alliance Maintenance Solutions (AMS).
Negotiations, which had been ongoing since last September, reached a turning point Friday afternoon, when janitors agreed to vote over the weekend on authorizing a strike. But late Friday, the strike vote was called off, a quorum of janitors met to review the tentative agreement, and the overwhelming majority voted to ratify the agreement.
Although Safeway’s contractors did not accept union proposals for "Green Cleaning" standards including non-toxic, environmentally friendly cleaning products, the new agreement does address some of the union’s concerns. The agreement will implement a joint “labor-management solution” to health and safety problems, so that janitors can raise issues such as a lack of safety training in regularly held labor-management meetings.
Safeway’s contractors also agreed to provide information to the union regarding the health effects of the chemicals and cleaning products used in the stores, provide necessary safety equipment as required by law, and work with Safeway to quickly replace malfunctioning janitorial equipment. The agreement also includes a provision to establish a streamlined, efficient process for injured janitors to file workers’ compensation claims.
The new union contract will be in effect until Oct. 31, 2012. The janitors’ last collective bargaining agreement expired on Oct. 31, 2009.
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