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November 16, 2023

Strike averted as janitors, including those for Worcester’s Union Station, agree to new contract

Photo | Grant Welker Union Station in Worcester.

Unionized janitors and an association of the region’s largest cleaning contractors union agreed to a tentative agreement early Wednesday morning, narrowly avoiding a strike that could have seen 12,500 cleaners in Massachusetts and Rhode Island walk off the job, including those servicing the 16 MBTA commuter rail stations in Central Massachusetts. 

The agreement was reached at approximately 4 a.m. on Wednesday, according to a Wednesday press release issued by Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union. 

Local 32BJ represents workers who clean more than 1,500 individual properties in Massachusetts, including all MBTA train stations and Boston Logan International Airport. Those train stations include 16 in Central Massachusetts, such as Worcester’s Union Station, Framingham, Natick Center, Westborough, Wachusett, Littleton/495, and Fitchburg.

The new contract will see janitors receive a 20% wage increase over the next four years, allows for 500 part-time employees to convert to full time over the course of the agreement, adds additional paid days off, and improves contributions to the pension fund.

A strike had been planned for midnight on Wednesday had an agreement not been reached.

“We are proud of the historic tentative agreement we reached with the contractors’ association, and are hopeful that members will ratify it in the coming days,” Roxana Rivera, 32BJ SEIU assistant to the president and the head of the union in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, said in the press release. “This accord secures the largest wage increases we have ever negotiated, allowing members who worked through the pandemic to keep up with historic inflation and some of the highest prices for housing in the nation.”

Rivera said if members vote in favor of the contract, it will help local cleaners recover from the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“If members vote to accept the agreement, it would also allow some 500 part-time workers to convert to full-time work, giving them access to employer-sponsored health insurance,” she said. “After the trials of the pandemic, which took the lives of many of our members and threatened countless more, this agreement takes a big step toward ensuring that our members have good jobs with decent pay and solid benefits.”

Union members will vote on the contract over the next few days, with the results expected on Wednesday.

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