THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
Kevin Cullen

The ivory glass tower

By Kevin Cullen
Globe Columnist / March 29, 2011

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Last fall, Boston Properties bought the Hancock Tower for a cool $930 million. There must be a lot of pressure to pay that nut every month, because Boston Properties just gave the security guards at the Hancock Tower an ultimatum: take a big pay cut or take a hike.

If the Daily News, that fine New York tabloid published by Boston Properties chairman and chief executive Mort Zuckerman, covered this story, the headline would be, BOSTON PROPERTIES TO SECURITY GUARDS: DROP DEAD.

The company that Boston Properties pays to provide security informed the guards that Boston Properties has set a new maximum salary and that the current crew had until Friday to accept the pay cut, apply for a different job, or be laid off. Most of the guards are being forced to take a 20 percent to 25 percent hit.

Along with the Prudential Tower, also owned by Boston Properties, the Hancock Tower is the city’s signature skyscraper. Since opening in 1976, the Hancock Tower has had five owners. It has also had a loyal, long-serving crew of security guards whose institutional knowledge about the building is legendary. None of the prior owners tried to reduce their pay.

But Boston Properties decided that the maximum hourly rate for security guards should be $16.25. I’m guessing whichever bean counter arrived at that figure makes considerably more than that.

The pay cuts apply to seven security guards, most of whom have been working in the tower for more than 20 years. One guard, who worked at Hancock before the tower was built, has 40 years of service. Most of them make more than $20 an hour and the most senior earns $26.

Mike Gallagher, deputy organizing director at Local 615 of the Service Employees International Union, which represents the guards, said none of the guards was at liberty to talk, but he was, and he isn’t happy.

“You’re talking about one person who makes about $54,000, while the others make somewhere in the mid-40s. Under the new pay scale, the most they can make is about $32,000,’’ Gallagher said. “These are people who worked their way up to the middle class, and now they’re being ripped out of that middle class, arbitrarily, with no recourse. They either take the cut or they walk away with nothing.

“These are people who know every inch of that property. They know the tenants, the rhythm of the building. Every other building owner that’s come along has valued that. The new owners do not.’’

I called Bryan J. Koop, the senior vice president of Boston Properties who runs the Boston office. Guys I know in the commercial property game say Koop is a good, decent guy, went to Texas Christian. But the nice woman who answered the phone said I couldn’t possibly want Mr. Koop. She said I wanted Andrea Simpson, head of their marketing department.

I left some messages for Simpson but never heard back from her, so I went on the Boston Properties website and left messages for Arista Joyner, an investor relations manager listed as a media relations contact. I never heard back from her either. No doubt, everybody’s very busy, trying to get the secretaries to stop wasting paper clips.

Three of the affected security guards have been offered other jobs, so taking them out of the equation means Boston Properties will save a whopping $45,947 a year by forcing the four remaining workers to take 16 bucks an hour.

Boston Properties is worth $13 billion, and it has put a gun to the head of four workers to save an amount of money that could be more than made up for if the company told its many executives to skip a few expense-account meals.

The Hancock Tower’s 62 stories rise nearly 800 feet, making it the tallest building in the city. But if you ask me, it’s owned by people who take a pretty short view of things.

Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at cullen@globe.com.