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Boston Janitors Threaten to Strike

September 4, 2002

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BOSTON (AP) _ Janitors at the Boston area’s best-known buildings continued working Wednesday despite a threat to strike after contract talks broke down.

The union representing 10,000 janitors had threatened to strike as early as Wednesday. No new talks were scheduled.

``At this moment, they are reporting to work,″ said Sylvia Panfil, spokeswoman for the Service Employees International Union Local 254.

Panfil said a group of janitors and Boston City Council President Michael Flaherty would go to the headquarters of Equity Office Properties, the city’s biggest landlord, to plead their case for higher wages, more full-time work and health insurance for workers and their families.

Negotiations between the union and the Maintenance Contractors of New England, which operates in about 1,000 commercial and government buildings in Boston and its suburbs, broke down Tuesday.

Buildings cleaned by the union’s members include the Prudential Center, City Hall and the Statehouse.

The old contract expired Saturday night _ hours after janitors voted in favor of a strike.

The two sides were ``far apart″ on all major issues including health benefits, higher wages and full-time employment, said union negotiator Jill Hurst.

James Canavan, spokesman for the contractors, said he saw ``minor progress″ in negotiations, but was unsure of the janitors’ next move.

``They indicated that they were not interested in continuing the discussions any further,″ he said.

Canavan has said that if workers strike, management and replacement workers would provide trash removal and bathroom sanitation.

The Teamsters have said they would not cross picket lines if the janitors strike.

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