Blue-collar workers reach tentative deal with Philly schools

The union representing blue-collar workers in Philadelphia schools has reached a tentative agreement with the school district on a contract it calls “the best deal we’ve ever made.”

Members of Service Employees International Union local 32BJ will vote this weekend on whether to ratify the new pact.

In a message to its members, the union said the proposed agreement “puts an end to concessions, increases your wages, adds full-time bus routes, and much more.” Details, however, will have to wait. District 1201, which represents cleaners, bus drivers, bus attendants, maintenance workers, and building engineers in Philadelphia public schools, said it won’t release the contract until after members have taken a ratification vote.

Four years ago, the union agreed to a concessionary deal that saved the school district an estimated $100 million and helped the union stave off job cuts. Prior to that, the district had threatened to lay off 848 blue-collar workers in order to plug budget holes.

“Our hard-working members sacrificed over the past four years to help the students and the District. We are glad the District acknowledges our efforts. This agreement allows these employees to continue supporting their families and their communities,” said Ernie Bennett, who heads District 1201, in a statement.

The union blamed past budget cuts — and the staffing reductions that resulted — for a recent boiler explosion at F.S. Edmonds Elementary School that killed a mechanic.

District 1201 has more than 2,000 members. Its current contract expires on Aug. 31. 

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