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NEW YORK CITY-The Building Service Workers Union has forged what it says in an unprecedented early contract agreement with Realty Advisory Board president James Berg.

The three-year contract, which must be ratified by Service Employees’ International Union local 32BJ’s 70,000 members, includes a 10% weekly wage increase over three years. In addition, the agreement calls for increased employer contributions to members’ pension to $100 million over three years and $114 million in additional employer contributions to employees’ health funds. Annual legal service fund contributions by employers would total $6 million under the new contract and employee training would receive $5 million per year in employer funding.

The current contract runs until Dec. 31, but economic concerns and the World Trade Center bombings prompted SEIU 32BJ president Michael Fishman and Berg to begin negotiations early. “After the World Trade Center attack it became clear that it was in both our interests to reach an agreement without the usual long, adversarial relationship,” Fishman tells GlobeSt.com. “Typically, at the end of an agreement everybody’s facing a strike on New Year’s day. That would have been in no one’s best interest this year.”

“We came to the conclusion that this wasn’t the time to be engaging in partisan fights,” agrees Berg. “So, we decided to sit down and see if we could resolve this before the end of the year and avoid all that. We started talking about the issues and came to the conclusion that we might actually be able to do that, especially in this atmosphere.”

One unique provision of the contract is a joint labor-management committee on building safety and security. “We will sit down and try to address the security issues for the real estate industry in New York,” Fishman says. “We’re all trying to respond to security issues and the best way to do it is together.”

The Realty Advisory Board is an association of employees in the residential and commercial building industry that negotiates and administers contracts with various unions representing building service employees.

SEIU 32BJ is the city’s largest private sector union and represents office cleaners, doormen, porters, maintenance workers, window cleaners, security guards and theater and stadium workers.

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