The Buffalo School Board voted Wednesday to approve a five-year contract with more than 400 food service workers who had been working without a contract since July 2004.
Under terms of the retroactive agreement, which has one year remaining, members of Local 264, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, will receive raises totaling 10 percent effective Oct. 27 and a onetime signing bonus of $150.
During Wednesday's special meeting, Superintendent James A. Williams praised William Travis, Local 264 president, for his persistence over four years of negotiations.
"I'm thrilled that our very hard-working cooks and food service workers are receiving raises they deserve and the district can afford," Williams said in a news release Wednesday.
As part of the agreement, the union also agreed to withdraw from a lawsuit against the school system over a wage freeze that was imposed by the Buffalo Fiscal Stability Board.
Food service workers now join engineers and teaching assistants -- the second-largest union in the system -- among those who have negotiated signed contracts since Williams became superintendent.
Williams expressed hope that other unions soon will follow.
Travis said the new contract "helps those who definitely need assistance."
"The good thing is that the contract put a little bit of money in these people's pockets right now," Travis said.
He said about 350 of the union's 410 members currently earn $7.52 to $8.73 an hour.
Williams estimated that the contract, which still must be approved by the control board, will cost the district $1.4 million over its five-year term. Travis said he anticipates seeking to extend the contract for another three or four years when negotiations begin again next year.
Travis noted Gov. David A. Paterson's dire predictions of multimillion-dollar state deficits in the coming years, as well the poor economic outlook at the federal level.
"I'm concerned that the situation could get increasingly worse," he said.