An agreement has been reached between Boston University and the 32BJ Service Employees International Union, which represents approximately 700 custodians, tradespeople and grounds and maintenance workers at BU and BUMC, on Nov. 10.
They agreed on a four-year contract which will ensure a 4% raise for all salaried workers effective Nov. 1 this year, plus a 3.75% raise next year, along with a 3.25% and 3% increase respectively in the following years.
Benefits in the new contract include an additional increase to 6% per hour for second and third shift differentials for custodial workers, maintenance of health insurance and a service recognition stipend of $1,000 to be paid in December for the hard work employees put in during the COVID-19 pandemic.
BU also agreed to provide higher quality winter jackets to custodians, truckers and grounds workers doing snow removal work and a $100 annual snow gear to workers doing snow removal work.
“It was difficult emotionally (and) physically for workers throughout the pandemic,” Roxana Rivera, vice president of the union branch, said. “We wanted to make sure that in this bargaining we were able to get stronger wage increases than in past years, as well as some recognition of workers that had to show up throughout the pandemic.”
The decision was approved by an overwhelming majority of voting members. The Union did not disclose the actual count of votes.
BU spokesperson Colin Riley declined to comment.
Bargaining committee member Matt Banks, who has been working as a custodian at BU for the past five years including the pandemic, emphasized that while they reached a historic win, it “still feels like it’s hardly enough.”
“One of the key things for our bargaining unit was obviously making sure that we were made whole for the efforts over the course of COVID and making sure that we had strong wage increases going forward,” Banks said.
When asked about inflation and the importance of the financial wins during this contract, Banks said, “it’s incredibly important to be having more and more conversations about not only what labor is actually worth, but what it actually means.”
Banks added the contract enables students to continue what they’re doing without disruptions or concerns about facilities.
“BU is a large and weird place that is hard to learn how to take care of it and difficult to keep it running.” Banks said. “There are times where a college campus is something that actually glimmers with possibility and well, at the end of the day, that’s the shine that we put on it.”
Tanya Shizan, a freshman in the Questrom School of Business, said she always has a positive experience when interacting with BU’s service workers and believes they should get paid more.
“They’re so integral to our community, and students know that,” Shizan said. “Everyone realizes how important they are and the place that they hold.”