The Cranston School Committee announced that a new collective bargaining agreement has been reached with the Cranston Custodian's Union, N.A.G.E. Local 153, that will save the school district $2 million over three years.
School Committee Chairwoman Andrea Iannazzi said in a release that the new agreement will provide "vital savings" and she commended the custodians for "taking this step, which is in the best interest of our students."
The contract features major concessions by custodians, who accepted a 15 percent pay cut effective March 12 of this year and major changes to their benefits package.
The contract should prevent the district from opting to outsource custodial services, which appeared likely to happen without major savings in a new contract. The School Committee will vote on the contract March 19 and it then heads to the City Council for final approval.
Along with the pay cut, union members will see their medical insurance cost sharing amount double from 10 to 20 percent, prescription drug co-payments increase and a new $500 deductible will be instituted.
Custodians will now have fewer paid holidays, longevity pay will be waived during the contract and step increases will be frozen.
New hires after the contract is ratified will no longer be enrolled in the state pension fund and will receive defined benefits through a "401(k) type account," the release stated.
The contract will extend retroactively from July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2014. Custodians have been working without a contract since last year and worrying about the potential of losing their jobs if the district decided to outsource custodial services.
The contract was negotiated by School Committeewoman Stephanie Culhane along with Iannazzi, who serve on the School Committee's Negotiating Subcommittee.
Custodians made their plea to keep services in-house in October. In a detailed presentation, Paul Saccoccia, national representative for NAGE Local 153, made the case that privatizing school custodial services would not save much money and would result in a significant drop in service quality. (The presentation is attached to this article).
“Privatization provides no job guarantees for longstanding employees who, by a large percentage, are city of Cranston taxpayers and more importantly, family income earners,” Saccoccia said. Earlier that month, the School Committee entertained five bids for custodial services, one of which verbally promised a savings of about $8 million over a five-year contract period.
The union’s presentation claimed the average custodian’s salary would decrease from $37,000 to $20,000 on average and their benefits would starkly worsen. At $20,000, the average three-person household would qualify for food stamps and Medicaid, which defeats the purpose of saving taxpayer money, Saccoccia said.
Custodians start at step 1 with a salary of $14.23 per hour, increasing gradually to step 9 at $17.92 per hour.
The average employee has between 15 and 25 years of service with the district and 56 percent live in Cranston and pay taxes in the city.