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N.Y. Doormen Poised to Leave the Building if Labor Talks Fail

April 19, 2006|Bryan Virasami | Newsday

NEW YORK — Thousands of doormen, porters and elevator operators across the city and some on Long Island could strike at midnight Thursday if contract talks fail, officials said Tuesday.

The union representing the 28,000 workers and negotiators for 3,500 building owners remained divided over wages and healthcare costs.

As thousands of doormen and other building workers flocked to a rally Tuesday, the union, Local 32 B-J, and management's Realty Advisory Board on Labor Relations said a down-to-the-wire deal would probably avert a strike.

The most contentious issue is the board's insistence on -- and the union's resistance to -- zero wage increases in the first year of a new contract.

"We will not accept zero in the first year," said Matt Nerzig, a union spokesman.

He also called the board's new push for workers to contribute 15% to healthcare premiums a nonstarter.

During a break in negotiations at the Sheraton New York Hotel and Towers, James Berg, president of the board, cited higher operating expenses, including for fuel, and booming insurance costs since the Sept. 11 attacks as some of the reasons for the wage proposal.

According to literature supplied by the Realty Advisory Board, the average union worker makes $37,317 a year. But with health and other benefits factored in, it costs a residential building $60,552 per employee.

The union, in its literature, says that apartment buildings' payroll costs consume less than 20% of their revenue, whereas some industries, such as restaurants, use more than 35% of revenue in wages, and healthcare industries use nearly half.

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