Contract Talks Start for Guards in Bay Area

Contract talks for 4,000 union-represented private guards in the Bay Area and 14 security companies began this week, with their contract set to expire Saturday.

The workers, who are represented by SEIU Local 24/7, are seeking improvements in health care benefits. They say employers have reduced coverage.

The employers enter into contracts with building owners and managers for guard services. Major employers include ABM, Securitas and AlliedBarton.

"The union has given the companies its proposal and the companies are reviewing it. The companies and the union have ... agreed to continue negotiations in July," employers said in a statement.

The expiring contract covering security guards in San Francisco, Alameda and Contra Costa counties took effect in July 2003. It covers workers in commercial office buildings as well as at ports, hospitals and banks.

It set hourly wages at $11.30 in San Francisco and $9.55 in the East Bay. SEIU negotiators are seeking a wage boost, said spokeswoman Gina Bowers. "With the average annual salary for a guard $25,000, that is not enough to raise a family and live above the poverty line in San Francisco,'' she said.

San Francisco Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin sponsored a resolution, approved by the board June 21, naming Thursday as Security Officer Appreciation Day in San Francisco. Peskin urged employers to increase guard wages and benefits to match those of other commercial real estate service workers, including janitors, window washers, parking attendants and operating engineers.

On Wednesday, the day contract negotiations began, SEIU members approved a set of goals for bargaining in the Bay Area and in other cities around the country where security guard contracts are up for renewal. They include wage increases, a retirement plan, health care improvements, improved training, paid time off, and leave for emergencies, civic duties and other purposes.