The agreement, which caps a yearlong labor rift with the Service Employees International Union Local 790, also will maintain the employees current benefit package.
That package includes a port contribution to the state retirement fund and free health benefits to the employees and their families until death.
Union leaders heralded the pact as a trend-setting victory over the ports use of part-time labor at the airport. For their part, port officials said the deal ensures labor peace at its two main businesses, the airport and seaport.
The primary focus of our negotiations was the elimination of the ports exploitation of temporary custodians, said Milli Cleveland, a field representative for Local 790 and its lead negotiator. That was our major victory, to stop the abuse of part-timers at the airport.
Since the mid-1980s, the port has steadily hired part-time workers to fill custodian slots at the airport. The part-timers are only allowed to work 990 hours a year, making them ineligible for health and retirement benefits.
While the past union contract allowed the port to use part-timers to fill shifts, the union had argued that the port was using the language as a loophole to reduce benefit costs.
According to the union, the port was filling
We are very pleased that we have been able to enter into a fair, long-term agreement, said Port Commissioner John Protopappas. The members of Local 790 are a very important part of our team.
The union represents about 276 workers who include custodians, clerks and maintenance staff. The group has an average salary of about $40,000, union officials say.
Protopappas said he is particularly pleased with the length of the contract.
Local 790 has used its clout with other unions, including the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, to threaten port shutdowns. The new agreement ensures that will not happen again, at least not until 2011 at the earliest.
Despite the earlier threats of strike by Local 790 members, Protopappas said negotiations were smooth.
I felt that this time around the negotiations were a lot smoother, he said. It did not take as long as the fist time around and everyone gave a little, and that is a good sign.