March 29, 2016
By Steven Wishnia
New York, NY – City sanitation enforcement agents voted narrowly to ratify a seven-year contract March 25. The vote was 80–71, said Syed Rahim, president of Communications Workers of America Local 1182, which represents the agents. The deal will give them a 10% raise, with annual increases beginning at 1% retroactive to 2011 and culminating at 3% effective Sept. 10. They will also get step increases for longevity on the job, a higher maximum salary, and a $261 a year annuity.
“I’m happy the contract is ratified,” Rahim said. The agents, whose last agreement expired in 2010, will get a $1,000 ratification bonus within 60 days, he added.
As they were casting ballots at the union’s Queens offices, Rahim said he was “very concerned” about the outcome. Some agents opposed the deal because it gave them the 10% increase civilian workers have received under the de Blasio administration, instead of the 11-12% increases the uniformed services have gotten.
“We’re still bargaining under a civilian pattern,” said Sean Milan, a Level II sanitation agent in Brooklyn. “We should be bargaining under a uniform pattern.” That should be required under the city’s Local Law 56, he added. The 2005 law specifically included sanitation agents as part of the uniformed services, who have a separate bargaining process. He also said that the paper given agents to explain the agreement “wasn’t very clear about how the raises worked.”
The agreement gives agents much more than a 10% raise, Rahim responded. Level I agents, who now start at $29,812 a year and have a maximum salary of $33,600, will make $41,200 a year once they complete the 10 steps. The maximum for Level II agents will rise by more than $9,000, from $37,790 to $46,805.
“This is the first time the city gives us a step plan. We never had a step plan before. We got the maximum salary we never had,” he said. “This is 10%?”
Wilfred Maldonado, the union’s Manhattan delegate, praised the deal. The step-pay scale, annuity, and gain-sharing—extra pay for working out of title, financed by the money agents save the city—are all “something we never had before,” he said. “That is historic.”
He said he hoped the agreement, sanitation agents’ first new contract since they moved to Local 1182 from District Council 37, will be the foundation for more gains in the next contract, such as bargaining as a uniformed service.
“We waited a long time for this,” he said. “Once the money starts coming in, the members will be content.”
The about 180 agents enforce the city’s health and sanitation codes. “Our job is really about educating the public,” said Milan—such as explaining to people that they have to separate paper and plastic put out for recycling—but “we do write tickets as well.”