New deal aims to avoid Barrington High custodian strike

  • Barrington High School custodians went on strike at the start of the 2015-16 school year to protest wage reductions. A new contract expected to win school board approval this month guarantees workers a minimum wage of $10 an hour.

    Barrington High School custodians went on strike at the start of the 2015-16 school year to protest wage reductions. A new contract expected to win school board approval this month guarantees workers a minimum wage of $10 an hour. Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer, 2015

 
 
Updated 6/8/2016 9:16 PM

Custodians at Barrington High School will make a minimum of $10 an hour next school year, under a proposed contract that aims to avoid a strike like the one that greeted students on the first day of classes last year.

The Barrington Area Unit School District 220 board of education is expected later this month to approve GCA Services Group's bid of $629,372 to provide custodial services at the school. The proposal, described by district administrators as the lowest responsible bid they received, will pay a minimum $10 hourly wage.

 

The school board required that wage of all companies that submitted bids. Board President Brian Battle said the requirement provides a balance between getting competitive bids and maintaining the ability to attract quality workers.

Last year, the board made no such minimum wage requirement and the company that won the bid, RJB Properties, cut pay for most workers from $9.77 to $8.50 an hour. The pay cut led workers, who are members of the SEIU Local 1 union, to walk off the job for two weeks at the start of the school year. The strike ended when RJB agreed to pay workers at least $9.50 an hour.

RJB Properties did not submit a bid this year.

According to district documents, 20 custodians will receive $10 an hour, two custodians will receive $12 an hour and the top supervisor will get $21.63 an hour, under the new contract.

A representative of SEIU Local 1 could not be immediately reached for comment on the proposal.

Unlike custodians at all other District 220 schools, Barrington High custodians are not school district employees.

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Board member Christopher Geier, who serves on the board's finance committee, said he initially wanted to change that, but it was too expensive.

"In my opinion (contracted workers) is the best option for us," Geier said. "If we feel like there's a better solution in 12 months we can do something different."

Superintendent Brian Harris said he has had good experiences with GCA Services Group at other schools districts.

According to district documents, contractor GSF USA submitted a bid $3,142.69 lower than GCA Service Group's bid, but the company did not show they had experience cleaning a high school.

GCA's winning bid was $42,866.82 higher than what the district paid last year, mostly to allow it to pay higher wages.

The school board is expected to vote on the contract at their next meeting, June 21. The current contract with RJB expires June 30.

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