The word union means we are all together. No one is out there on a limb by himself.

~ Leroy Abramson, 32BJ Member, New York

Answers to Prevailing Wage Questions

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Last week, the Mayor announced changes to the school maintenance system that will finally get ALL school cleaners under prevailing wage by the start of the 2016-2017 school year.  By law, private corporations or contractors providing services to City government agencies must pay prevailing wages and benefits. The new corporation, or contractor, will be required to pay the prevailing wage to all the schools cleaners and handypersons– those currently employed by Custodian Engineers in the same way that those  working for the cleaning contractors ABM and Temco are now paid. This is great news – we are finally winning what we have fought so hard to achieve for many years – Equal Pay for Equal Work!

Many of you have let us know your questions about the prevailing wage.  We are also listening to your concerns about the Mayor’s plan to change school maintenance, and how it will affect you,  your jobs, and your contract. We thank you for letting us know your concerns – at meetings, in the field and through messages. Many of these issues still have to be worked out with the City. We will bring your concerns to the table as we meet with the Mayor in the coming weeks to work out key issues, and get answers for you. As we learn more, we will keep you updated. We are visiting schools to get you the information you need, and are collecting your questions and concerns.

Below are some answers about three issues that you have asked us about most frequently regarding the Prevailing wage: differences in wages, lump sum payments and vacation days.


Once school cleaners and handypersons currently working for CEs are moved into the new system, they will be paid prevailing wage. School members working for cleaning contractors ABM and Temco are currently paid at this rate. The difference is significant – thousands of dollars more a year. The prevailing wage is based on the wages and benefits paid in the private sector. Because in New York City, 32BJ bargains for most cleaners in the commercial sector, the prevailing wage has been based on the 32BJ master commercial contract.

Below we compare what a full-time cleaner under a CE earned in 2015 with what the equivalent worker at ABM or Temco earned.

Full-time cleaners by employer Annual Wages earned in 2015*
Under Custodian Engineer
Under cleaning contractor (ABM or Temco)
*This and all other calculations for a full-time cleaner on this page assume there were no overtime hours.

When, as the Mayor announced, school cleaners and handypersons begin receiving the Prevailing Wage at the start of the 2016-2017 school year, they will earn almost $2,000 more in 2016 than they would if they remained under the current agreement with Local 891. For example, a full-time cleaner who remained under the current agreement for all of 2016 would expect to earn $44,372.80 for the year. The same worker, receiving prevailing wage starting in September 1, 2016, would earn $46,344.80 for the year.

And the gains increase going forward – see the table below.

Job Classification 2016 NYC Prevailing Wage – Expected 2017 NYC Prevailing Wage – Expected 2018 NYC Prevailing Wage – Expected 2019 NYC Prevailing Wage – Expected
Schools Cleaner Hourly Wage $24.55 $25.15 $25.75 $26.52
Annual Wage $51,064.00 $52,312.00 $53,560.00 $55,161.60
Schools Handyperson Hourly Wage $26.87 $27.52 $28.17 $29.00
Annual Wage $55,889.60 $57,241.60 $58,593.60 $60,320.00



Even though 32BJ members are and will continue to be private sector workers, the 32BJ contract with Local 891 follows the pattern of the teachers’ contract negotiated by the de Blasio administration in 2014. Many City employee contracts, including those of Locals 94 and 891, follow the same pattern.

Retroactive payments for 2010-2014 under the 891 contract were paid in March 2015, and the first of five lump sum payments was made in July 2015. The remaining lump sum payments based on increases for the period of 2007-2009 were scheduled to be paid on: July 1, 2017; July 1, 2018; July 1, 2019; and July 1, 2020 (there is no lump sum payment for 2016).

These payments will be absorbed into the wages paid under the new Prevailing Wage. The amount of the payments will vary among members, and will depend on how many hours were worked. But we believe the gains in wages and benefits over time will be greater than the lump sum payments. As an example, the table below shows what the lump sum payments would be for a full-time cleaner with no overtime.

Payout Date Expected amount
7/1/2015 $1,890.00
7/1/2017 $2,230.00
7/1/2018 $4,474.00
7/1/2019 $4,474.00
7/1/2020 $4,474.00



There are differences between the number of vacation days available to school cleaners and handypersons working for Custodian Engineers and those that apply under the Prevailing Wage scale. However, workers will gain far more in wages than what the difference in days is worth. At the rate for full-time cleaners effective April 22, 2016, the difference in vacation days for those who have worked between 1-20 years amounts to $692.80, far less than what these workers will gain in wages. Any changes to the vacation schedule will not go into effect until 2017.

Time working
Current Vacation Days under CBA
Proposed Vacation Days*
Less than one year
1-5 years
5-20 years
20 years
21-22 years
23+ years


For cleaners and handypersons working for the new employer – NYCSSS – Eid al-Adha on September 12, 2016, will be a paid holiday. Under the interim agreement that was ratified in July, the new employer NYCSSS must maintain the terms of the 891 agreement until a new agreement is reached.

School cleaners and handypersons employed by ABM and Temco are covered by an agreement that expires October 22, 2016.  Under that agreement these members receive 17 paid holidays in 2016: New Year’s Day, MLK Day, Lincoln’s Birthday, President’s Day, Good Friday, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Rosh Hashanah (2 days), Yom Kippur, Columbus Day, Election Day, Veteran’s Day, Thanksgiving Day, Day After Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day. Eid al Adha is not a paid contract holiday. ABM has chosen to grant Eid al-Adha as a paid holiday in 2016. Members who work for Temco can use paid sick, vacation or personal days on that day.


We will continue to provide you with information about how changes in the school maintenance system will affect you. And remember that the contracts for all school cleaners and handypersons will expire October 21, 2016, so we will be preparing soon to start our contract campaign.

Continue to send us your questions–email us at We are also planning a Tele-Town Hall for March 21, so you can ask about prevailing wage, the Mayor’s plan to change the schools maintenance system and your contract.

The majority of you who we have spoken to in the field thus far have told us that you support this change, and knowing this helps us feel that we truly stand together as we work through this process.