Safety agents who work in schools across the city will soon receive raises, as the de Blasio administration moves to settle two labor issues at once.
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced today that the city has reached a tentative contract agreement with the union that represents school safety agents. In addition to a 10 percent pay increase over the course of the seven-and-a-half year contract, the city has proposed a resolution to the 2010 pay discrimination lawsuit filed on behalf of school safety agents, 70 percent of whom are women.
The new contract would bring the maximum pay for school safety agents in line with that of special officers, who have similar responsibilities but are stationed in hospitals and homeless shelters. Sixty percent of special officers are male, and special officers make an average of $7,000 more per year than school safety agents.
“We have a moral, human obligation to ensure that everyone is treated equally in all forms of employment,” de Blasio said at the Cobble Hill School for American Studies in Brooklyn.
With more than 5,000 agents stationed in schools, the New York Police Department’s school safety division constitutes the fifth-largest police force in the country. Their role in schools—including how much power they have to discipline students and who has a say in their training—has been the subject of ongoing debate, particularly during the mayoral election.
A.J. Garrett, an agent at P.S. 397 in Brooklyn, said the move toward equal pay is long overdue.
“We’re there for the kids. We counsel the kids, we talk to them, we protect them,” she said.
Under the proposed settlement for school safety agents, which is pending court approval, agents who have worked for at least three years will receive approximately $7,000 in retroactive pay, as will agents who retired in the last four years. Agents who left service in good standing will receive smaller retroactive payments. The payments will cost the city $38 million.
Local 237 represents both school safety agents and special officers. If ratified, their new contract will extend retroactively from September 2010 to March 2018. Union members will also receive a one-time payment of $1,000.
The gross cost of the contract is $145.5 million, but as with the teacher’s union contract, the city plans to cover a large portion of that cost by reducing health-care spending.
De Blasio and Local 237 President Gregory Floyd stood side-by-side at the press conference, reinforcing de Blasio’s image as a labor-friendly mayor concerned about equality.
“What this states is that school safety agents are looked at as vital part of our school system, and we do a vital job,” said Kanjela Moore, who has worked as a school safety agent for 22 years.