School Food Service Workers Improve Wages, Language in New Contract

Suffield, CT, 12 July, 2017

The Suffield food service workers were glad that, for the first time in several years, management did not talk about subcontracting their jobs during contract negotiations. The hard work of the union members has improved the financial performance of the school cafeteria. The members of Sub-local 38 of UE Local 222 negotiated and ratified a new three-year contract.

On wages the school district wanted to implement an incentive program. If sales increase each year by a target amount, the members would receive a percentage of the increase. The members firmly said “no” to this proposal, fearing it would keep them from getting wage increases. Instead, they negotiated a .5 percent increase retroactive to July 1, 2016, followed by increases of 1.25 percent in the second year and 1.70 percent in the third year.

Some highlights of the contract:

In case of a layoff, laid-off employees will be automatically placed on the recall list. Previously the employee had to submit a written request to be placed on the list. Employees will be asked if they want to work overtime before such work can be given to substitutes.

Because school districts in Connecticut are now following a common calendar, Veterans Day was removed as a holiday and New Year's Eve will be added. However, the parties agreed that any employee who is a veteran and wishes to take Veterans Day off will be given the holiday and not penalized.

Grievance procedure time limits were extended. The union will now have 10 days to file a grievance (up from three.) Written verbal warnings were added to the language on progressive discipline.

Language for personal time was improved. Personal time for weddings will include wedding of the employee’s mother, father, son or daughter. Attending college orientations or college visits with the employee’s child can be taken as personal days when these cannot be scheduled outside of work days. Sick leave language was modified to comply with Public Act 11-52. Paid bereavement leave was expanded to include any relative living in the employee’s household as well as domestic partners.

Management tried to amend the dress code to require long pants throughout the school years. The union committee strongly objected and the issue was taken off the table. All members working 20 hours or more will have to maintain their SafeServ certification, with the school board paying for such certification.

The school board retains the right to look outside the bargaining for new employees, but if a current employee applies for the position and has equal qualifications, the current employee will receive the job over an outside applicant.

The union bargaining committee consisted of Kathy Stelmack and Cookie Duval, assisted by UE Field Organizer Annie MacDonald.