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Aramark and Unite Here Reach Tentative Contract Agreement for Major Wage and Health-care
 Hikes for 300 Workers at Hynes and South Boston Convention Centers
Taxpayers Expected to Pay for Much of the Increase

By Jay Fitzgerald, Boston HeraldMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Dec. 11, 2008--A new contract between a private concessionaire and a food-services union at the Hynes and South Boston convention centers will end up costing taxpayers about $1 million a year.

Aramark and Unite Here on Tuesday reached a tentative contract agreement that calls for major wage hikes and health-care coverage for about 300 workers over the next five years.

The pact, which union members will vote on tomorrow, was being hailed yesterday as bringing the food-service workers' pay and benefits up to par with what their fellow private-sector employees make at hotels across the city.

But there's a catch: Taxpayers will ultimately pay for the new contract's goodies.

The deal, which was reached after a year of sometimes acrimonious negotiations, calls for the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority to reduce its take from food and beverage sales during shows at the two convention centers, according to sources.

The reduction from the MCCA's current 36 percent revenue-sharing level will give Aramark financial room to pay for the increased wages and benefits called for in the new union contract, sources said.

That will amount to an average of about $1 million a year in lost revenue for the MCCA, an independent government agency that gets millions of dollars a year from the state via hotel and motel taxes.

A spokeswoman for Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, who put pressure on both sides to settle their long labor dispute, said it was important that workers were treated fairly compared to other waiters, waitresses, cooks and bartenders at hotels across the city.

"We're not talking extravagant here," said spokeswoman Dot Joyce. "You're going to have to have (food-service) employees work there and pay them regardless for who they work for."

James Rooney and a spokesman for Unite Here declined comment on details of the contract.

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Copyright (c) 2008, Boston Herald

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