ANOTHER UNION has agreed to a deal with the Philadelphia School District that will save the district money and decrease the role of seniority.
No, not that union.
Unite Here Local 634, which represents 2,200 cafeteria workers and student-climate staff, signed off on the pact Saturday with a unanimous vote. The School Reform Commission is expected to approve it Thursday. The contract, which runs through September 2017, will provide members with a raise each year, but also includes key work-rules changes the district sought.
"The willingness of a labor partner whose members include our lowest-compensated staff to make a shared sacrifice on behalf of our students and schools sends a powerful message," Superintendent William Hite said in a statement.
Under the deal, Local 634 members would be elevated to the city's new living wage, estimated to be about $12.67 an hour by 2017. The vast majority of members are part-time workers who make $10.88 an hour. Those wage increases will be offset by freezing the district's contributions to the Health and Welfare Fund until the term ends, with a slight savings to the district.
The pact also holds the line on health-care benefits so that the roughly 733 members who are eligible to receive benefits will not have to pay insurance premiums.
But the big focus for the district in recent negotiations with all of the unions has been around work rules that provide schools with staffing flexibility. The new contract would eliminate seniority as the sole factor in recalling laid-off student-climate staff, formerly referred to as noontime aides.
"The members feel good about [the contract]. We've kind of been in limbo for over a year," said Nicole Hunt, staff organizer with the union. She said shielding members from health-care premiums was a big win.
"Them not having to pay for health care was a great, great part. They can't afford to pay the premiums because it would be like a wage decrease."
Local 634's previous contract expired in September 2013. The group joins administrators and blue-collar workers in making concessions to aid the cash-strapped district.
The district remains in a contract dispute with its largest labor union, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. The SRC has appealed a case regarding changes to health-care benefits to the state Supreme Court.