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Boston Janitors Reach Tentative Deal

October 24, 2002
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BOSTON (AP)- Oct. 24 - A three-week strike by janitors at some of Boston's most prominent buildings ended Wednesday with a tentative settlement that includes a pay raise as well as a rare offering of health insurance to part-time workers.

Union members have yet to ratify it, but the tentative deal is "a tremendous victory" said Renee Asher, spokeswoman for the Service Employees International Union Local 254, which represents the 10,000 janitors involved.

"What's exciting here is part-time workers have actually gained health care," said Andrew L. Stern, international president of SEIU.

Stern predicted the agreement would have far-reaching implications for workers struggling for health care elsewhere.

The Boston janitors' strike, which started Sept. 30, targeted nearly 100 high profile buildings in the downtown area. The janitors were demanding higher wages, health insurance, and more full-time jobs. The tentative deal would give 1,000 of the 8,000 part-timers health insurance benefits and all of them two sick days per year.

The deal would create no new full-time positions, however it would raise the maximum wage for part-time and full-time janitors to $13.15 an hour. Part-timers currently earn up to $9.95, and full-timers top out at $10.20. Asher said the union wanted more part-timers to get health insurance but had to compromise. A vote date had not been set early Wednesday.

"This agreement provides a benefit that months ago we weren't even considering," said James B. Canavan, lead negotiator for the cleaning contractors the janitors work for. Several businesses, including John Hancock Financial Services and FleetBoston Financial Corp., said they were willing to help accommodate the pay increases.

The contractors have said 90 percent of the janitors still reported to work during the dispute. Those striking targeted staged noisy and colorful pickets. Mayor Thomas Menino had been mediating in the final days of the talks, and acting Gov. Jane Swift gave the workers a boost by severing the Statehouse's contract with Unicco, a company at the center of the dispute.

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