OneSource increases wages, SLAM declares victory

After months of negotiations, OneSource, the contractor that employs Tufts’ janitors, agreed last Thursday to increase wages, expand full-time work opportunities, and provide family health insurance to its workers.

The decision came after an intense round of talks between Tufts’ custodial workers, a local service employees labor union, and the Student Labor Action Movement (SLAM).

A new three-year contract will raise custodian’s wages from between $8 and $10.50 per hour to $11.45 per hour for part-time and fulltime workers by Jan. 2004. Full-time employees will be offered family health insurance by 2004.

The contract affects about 170 custodial workers, who were represented in the negotiations by Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 254.

SLAM and SEIU Local 254 have been protesting for higher wages, sick leave, health insurance, job security, and assorted benefits for custodial workers at Tufts since last summer.

To cut costs and improve service, Tufts began outsourcing custodial services in 1994. In 1997, the University hired OneSource, its current contractor.

Although SLAM organized campus protests and “teach-ins” to influence University officials, Tufts administrators were not directly involved in the negotiation process. “We are monitoring the situation, and are aware of the discussions, but are not actively participating in the negotiations,” Vice President of Operations John Roberto said last month. “We’re very much interested, but it is inappropriate for us to be involved in the specific day-to-day negotiation.”

Senior Iris Halpern, SLAM’s chief organizer, told the Daily on several occasions that administrators did not make negotiations a priority and were not sympathetic to her organization’s cause.

In a press release from SEIU Local 254, the chapter’s deputy trustee, Rocio Saenz, said the new contract is the first step toward improving working conditions for custodians throughout the area.

“The victory at Tufts shows that more area universities are recognizing their responsibility to ensure fair working conditions for janitors,” Saenz said. “The contract won by Tufts’ janitors is the first step toward winning better wages and working conditions for janitors throughout Massachusetts.”