PEF Represents: Real Professionals • Real Respect • Real Voice 54,000 Strong!
Safe staffing for nurses, privatization of bargaining unit work proposals passed along; hourly members share their stories
BY KATE MOSTACCIO
The contract team met with state negotiators July 9 and passed along two proposals for the new PS&T contract: Safe Nurse to Patient Staffing Ratios and Protection of Public Finances and Resources (Cost Benefit Analysis for Privatization of Bargaining Unit Work).
“Both of these issues have an incredible impact on our communities,” said PEF Contract Team Chair Darlene Williams. “Short-staffing and less than competitive salaries for PEF nurses are hindering patient care and safety at state hospitals and facilities including Roswell Cancer Institute in Buffalo, SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, and Stony Brook Hospital on Long Island.”
Safe staffing ratios in place at Kaiser Permanente hospitals and in the state of California have resulted in better patient outcomes and increased hospital revenue, despite concerns over the cost of investing in additional nurses. Hospital revenue often increases with safe staffing ratios because of the decrease in bad outcomes.
“The PEF Contract Team is united in the fight for better public hospitals, better working conditions, and safe staffing for New Yorkers,” Williams said. “The Governor’s negotiating team acknowledges the nursing shortage and is reviewing our proposal. Safe staffing saves lives!”
Protecting New York tax dollars and other resources is a sacred duty for PEF members and paying private consultants to do work that the state workforce is capable of performing is a waste of taxpayers’ money, Williams said.
“We are adamant that our competent and dedicated workforce can do the majority of the work that is being awarded to private profit-making entities,” she said. “It’s not fiscally responsible to contract this work out. In addition, more and more contractors are working with less and less supervision from the state. They often inspect their own work, which takes the public employee out of the role of watchdog of public safety, as well as public funds.”
Utilizing our skilled state workforce to tackle state projects is good stewardship of tax dollars. “Private entities utilize at-will workers,” Williams said. “The money those workers don’t get in the form of decent wages and benefits go to corporate profits. What New York state is trading for those private contracts is an investment in our communities and the squandering of taxpayer money.”
For two years in a row, both houses of the state Legislature passed legislation that would require a comprehensive analysis of the cost of private contracts as they compare to having the work done by state employees. Both times, the governor has vetoed the legislation.
Williams said the team has received numerous letters from PEF hourly employees, many of whom work at the Department of Labor (DOL) for numerous years, yet they don’t have permanent status and don’t receive the salary and benefits that co-workers in permanent positions receive, such as longevity and location pay, even though they do the same work. This drives home the urgency for change for hourlies in PEF-represented positions. Williams said that DOL is inappropriately using long-term hourly employees for permanent staffing and this is just fundamentally unfair. An employee should not be in an hourly non-permanent status for years on end. We are fighting to change this.
Hourly employees make substantially less than their permanent peers in the DOL, letter writers asserted. “As an hourly, I’m responsible for the same duties permanent LSRs [labor services representatives] perform,” stated one long-term hourly LSR who has worked for DOL for nine years in a letter to PEF Executive Board Member Scarlett Ahmed. “However, I earn about $15,000 to $18,000 less a year than a permanent with eight years of experience. Moreover, as an hourly, I can’t be considered for promotions or transfers.
“To add insult to injury, I also earn less than permanent LSRs with two years of experience. Go figure,” this PEF member wrote. “I feel like a second-class citizen at DOL.”
Many other letter writers echoed the writer’s sentiments.
“I recently discovered — thanks to it being public record — that a permanent staff member hired a year before me earns approximately $20,000 more than me, excluding longevity payments and location pay,” one wrote. “Is that even legal? This impacts the moral of the office greatly as you can imagine.”
In addition to the large pay gap between hourly and permanent, letter writers pointed out their inability to move up in their field.
“Hourly LSRs are forced to compete with the public for the few available permanent positions via open competitive exams,” one DOL employee wrote. “In the interest of fairness, hourly LSRs should be allowed to take transitional exams to become permanent, and lists established from transitional exams should be canvassed by HR before open competitive lists. Or hourlies with many years of experience and excellent performance evaluations should be allowed to transition into permanency without examination.”
Sick leave accruals were also high on the list of issues. For hourlies, employees must complete a “qualifying” service of 19 pay periods without a break of more than one complete pay period before they are eligible to earn sick leave.
That’s about nine months.
“As a mother of a baby and a toddler I will become ill more often until they develop a stronger immune system,” said one PEF member. “It is a hard decision to make when you are sick, and you must decide whether your health or paying rent and childcare is more important.”
The PEF contract team is fighting to achieve across-the-board wage increases that recognize the hard work and sacrifices of the PEF membership. There are proposals to enhance performance advances and awards, inconvenience pay, location pay, and hazardous duty pay, among others.
“The contract team will continue to move forward to secure a contract that reflects the economic gains and benefits all PEF members deserve,” Williams said.
Small table negotiations on specific contract articles are scheduled through August. Main table negotiations on economic items are scheduled to resume on Sept. 10 and 11.
The support of PEF members gives the contract team strength at the bargaining table. Show the state you support your contract team by turning out for Labor Day parades and events all across the state. See what’s happening in your region here.
PEF Represents: Real Professionals • Real Respect • Real Voice 54,746 Strong!
Summer is here and with it come family gatherings — perfect opportunities to show your support for the PEF Contract Team by gathering your family and friends for a #ashtag Friday photos.
Tell the state that #PEFdeservesafaircontract and that #FamiliesSupportPEF and #KidsbackPEF. Pets are welcome to join the fun, too!
Let’s flood PEF’s email box and our Facebook feed with photos of PEF members holding up hashtag signs. At the park. At the beach. In your backyard. Wherever your family and friends gather. READ ON