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STAMFORD, CT-The striking Service Employees International Union Local 531 has ratified a contract agreement that calls for a 40% pay raise over three years. Janitors who were on strike for seven weeks began going back to their jobs yesterday morning.

The strike by the janitors who clean office buildings in Greenwich, Stamford, Norwalk and Bridgeport, began on Oct. 2. A total of eight union members engaged in a hunger strike that lasted 24 days. Just before the deal was reached, the union had threatened to engage in unspecified acts of civil disobedience called “Operation Chaos” that was to begin on Thursday, Nov. 16. However, the union never implemented the campaign because deals with contracting firms were reached beforehand. The hunger strike ended last week when the union reached a tentative deal with the first cleaning contracting firm on Nov. 14.

A Local 531 spokesperson said that the membership voted in favor of the contact on Saturday (Nov. 18). In total, the deal involves 11 of the 12 cleaning contractors that employ SEIU members.

Union officials said that an overwhelming majority of workers now make $6.15 per hour. By 2003, with the 40% raise, they will earn $9 per hour. The contract also calls for contractors to provide some health insurance coverage for full-time workers. In addition, contractors have agreed to increase the number of full-time workers at their respective commercial office buildings.

Officials with Local 531 would not identify the cleaning contracting firm that has yet to sign the new deal. However, a spokesperson for the union says that negotiations are ongoing, and that except for some pickets that may be at a few buildings in Fairfield County, “The strike is all but over.”

A spokesperson for Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy said that the city government believes that the strike may be over. The mayor had asked the union and representatives of the cleaning contractors to meet at Stamford City Hall last Wednesday (Nov. 15) to try and work out a deal. City officials say that negotiations held that evening led to a tentative contract deal.

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