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PS&T contract team lines up more bargaining dates with the state

Since the PS&T contract negotiations resumed in late fall, after a transition in the PEF administration, talks between the union and the state have progressed. PEF’s contract team chair, Jemma Marie-Hanson, described the bargaining talks as “fruitful.”

The state has agreed to meet nine days to negotiate between the end of February and early May. Marie-Hanson said that is a positive sign. Both negotiating teams have presented articles, and the state is expected to place its remaining proposals on the table by March 1. PEF has reserved the right with management to open articles as needed during the negotiation process.

“We are looking forward to productive meetings with the state as we move forward,” Marie-Hanson said. The Communicator continues to highlight three of PEF’s PS&T contract team members in each issue, so you can understand each of their roles.

contractteammarchGermaine Greco brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the bargaining table. She served on the PEF contract team that negotiated the 2007-2011 PS&T Agreement. She represents three agencies on PEF’s Executive Board, and has a good handle on multiple labor issues.

“I agreed to join the current team as a sign of unity within PEF and to support PEF President Wayne Spence,” Greco said. “My previous negotiating experience helps me to properly relate the issues and concerns of members to the governor’s negotiators.”

Greco works at the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) and has experience as a hearing officer at social services agencies within OTDA such as Social Security Disability, Audit and Quality, and the Office of Hearings and Appeal.

“I am able to articulate the concerns of these members. I also have a good understanding of what is occurring at many state agencies, and particularly with members from the downstate area. PEF’s contract team has all the members’ best interests at heart, and we are working toward getting an agreement that satisfies all members. We are addressing the cost-of-living differential, and introducing a new timely article that deals with an issue that affects our lives and security.”

Greco also said members must understand the contract is negotiated as a whole package of benefits and provisions, and not just one category such as salary.

“Negotiations occur and continue over a period of time, but we are hoping to agree upon a contract in a timely manner,” she said.

Stephen Geyer was eager to embrace the challenge of being on PEF’s contract team because PEF President Wayne Spence held Geyer’s experience and negotiating skills in high regard.

Geyer brings 30 years of PEF activism to the table, coupled with 25 years as an engineer-in-charge at the state Department of Transportation.

“I have lived through eight contracts and have the ability to reflect and ascertain the positives and negatives in each PS&T Agreement and the effects each one had on the membership,” Geyer said. “It is important to learn from the past and innovate for the future in ways that will bring members a fair and equitable contract. Each of us on the team has a specialty area. I have been charged by my DOT brothers and sisters to ensure their issues are raised and addressed at the bargaining table.”

Geyer noted the rigorous training and countless hours he and the team spent dissecting contract language and crunching numbers to have the negotiating savvy needed to obtain a contract members will be eager to ratify.

“It is a large time commitment, but it is worth our efforts as the contract is of paramount importance to the members,” Geyer said.

“This process is a responsibility the team takes wholeheartedly. We ask for patience from members and for their involvement when the time comes. I urge all members to be part of the process and exhibit the same work ethic as the team, so we can negotiate a contract that makes us all proud.”

Prakash Lal has always been passionate about labor and human rights, and views his commitment to PEF’s contract team as an honor.

“I want to restore dignity and respect for the members, especially those who work at the state Office of Information Technology Services (OITS). The work they do plays an integral role in our lives, and many give back to their communities,” said Lal, an information technology specialist 4 in Albany, and a PEF Executive Board member.

Lal has extensive work experience from various agencies and locations throughout the state. He is cognizant of the pulls and pressures of balancing work and home responsibilities, and the daily grind of being a state worker.

“My background lends me the experience to bring the concerns my members share to the negotiating table. I have reached out to the employees at OITS for their suggestions and input, so they will be represented during bargaining,” Lal said.

“The team examined previous PS&T agreements almost as if we were reading a bible, focusing on each article, page and word. This provided us with a deep understanding of the issues, how proposals are designed, and what we should expect at the meetings. Our team also learned many lessons and insight from those who sat at the negotiating table before us, and from PEF’s international affiliates.”

Lal also said negotiating a good contract is critical as the labor movement is under attack.

“Members need to be united and ready to make sacrifices, in order to attain the goal of a fair contract now, and in future years.”

Story By DEBORAH A. MILES in the upcoming March Communicator

See previous CONTRACT UPDATE posting