PEF protests OCFS work schedule change
Story and photos by SHERRY HALBROOK
Members of the PEF Executive Board joined members of PEF Division 234 at the state Office of Children and Family Services in a lunchtime protest in Rensselaer March 8. They called for the agency management to allow PEF members to continue to use alternative work schedules under an agreement that was negotiated and signed by both management and the union decades earlier.
The agency recently told the members they must work from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., rather than pick a schedule between 6:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m., as they had been doing for years. No reason for the change was provided to the union.
“Alternative work schedules have allowed us to provide extended services to the public, as well as being able to take care of the needs of our own families, and decrease the congestion of rush-hour traffic and parking in and around the state Capitol,” said PEF Division 234 Council Leader Barbara Gregorek.
“It’s ironic that an agency whose employees provide services to children and families, does not consider that some families are unable to run on a schedule dictated by the state. Some of our consumers can only be reached in the early morning or after 5 p.m. due to their work and family schedules. This new policy does a disservice to the taxpayers and vendors who depend on our flexibility and availability as state employees,” Gregorek said.
Usher Piller, council leader of PEF Division 191 in Manhattan, said, “The elimination of a flexible workday policy that had been in effect for decades in OCFS, without any consideration for employees’ child care and elder care obligations, shows the agency is anti-children, anti-families and anti-labor. Moreover, hundreds of employees are now forced to commute in the height of rush-hour traffic, thus harming the environment as well as disrupting carpooling and other transit arrangements. Corporations throughout the country have gone out of their way to be family-friendly, but OCFS is exhibiting nothing but contempt for its employees by its restrictive and unjustifiable limitations on employee workplace rights.”
Then PEF President Wayne Spence said OCFS managers at the Rensselaer office had sent last-minute messages to PEF members calling them into meetings at the same time as the protest, so they could not take their usual lunch break to participate in it.
“PEF will stand by these members and we will keep pressing for a fair resolution of this situation,” Spence said.
Several PEF retirees added their support to the protest, including Victor Batorsky, who negotiated for PEF the original agreement with the state agency allowing the alternative work schedules.
Update: Usher Piller was interrogated by OCFS management March 20 related to his use of state email for union business and other matters and was suspended pending a notice of discipline. He has 37 years of state service.