THE BRONX, N.Y. (PIX11) — In the words of a union representative, “it’s going down to the wire” in efforts to settle a contract dispute between union residential building workers and landlords in the Bronx.

Negotiations are continuing into the night in an effort to avert a midnight strike. Workers have already authorized the strike that would impact more than 800 buildings, and they are threatening to walk unless they get a new contract that includes fair pay raises.

A small contingent of superintendents, porters and door attendants representing more than 2,700 residential building workers staged a small but very vocal rally in Riverdale. Their chants called for renewal of a contract to provide higher wages, health and pension benefits.

Members of the Service Employees International Union have been negotiating with the Bronx Realty Advisory Board which represents building owners, a significant number of the apartments, co-ops and condos located in and around Riverdale. The talks reportedly got bogged down over the issue of immediate pay increases.

“They want to extend the contract for six months which would freeze wages,” said union representative Simon Davis Cohen. “That threw a monkey wrench into the negotiations.” Cohen expressed hope that an agreement could be reached to avoid a strike.

One participant in the rally shouted, “We need to be together to fight for this contract.” That prompted a spontaneous chant of “What do we want? A Contract. When do we want it? Now.”

The workers in the Bronx say they deserve fair wage increases. They claim porters and door attendants in the Bronx currently earn almost $8 less than their counterparts in New York City’s four other boroughs.

Workers participating in the rally declared they needed the wage hikes in order to “survive” in the current economy. Elizabeth Tejada, a building concierge, argued, “An Uber costs $20 to get here, and that’s without counting tolls. Our food, our rent, our rent goes up, while wages stay the same,” she added. She concluded, “We have to strike for higher wages, not because we want to, but because we deserve it.”

While the workers talked about their hardships, so too did the building owners. The president of the Bronx Realty Advisory Board explained to PIX11 News that the landlords are out tens of millions of dollars of back rent because of legislative actions that excused some rent payments during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bronx Realty Advisory Board President Billy Schur said efforts are in progress to resolve this issue over the next six months, hence the call for an extension of the current contract. The workers, however, said their patience is wearing thin.

“We don’t want to go on strike. We love our job, love what we do. Why do we have to wait another six months to get a wage increase?” Tejada exclaimed.

However, there does appear to be a glimmer of hope for a settlement. Schur told PIX11 News that there was some progress during Tuesday’s negotiations. For one thing, an agreement was reached on health and welfare issues. And he expressed encouragement that both sides, in his words, “could reach the finish line sometime tonight” to avert a strike.