Union know-how gets labor department employee what he deserves
By DEBORAH A. MILES
Hourly or temporary employees often face a myriad of conundrums when they work at state agencies. Although these employees are grateful for the work and look at the position as a stepping stone to a full-time permanent position, it becomes a test of patience and, for some, union intervention to get to that point.
That was the case of one hourly PEF member who has worked at the state Department of Labor (DOL) in Manhattan for nine years as a labor services representative (LSR) in the Division of Employment and Workforce Solutions.
Scarlett Ahmed, Division 245 council leader and an Executive Board member, said hourly employees are PEF members, but without civil service job protection.
“Getting hired permanently depends on two things,” Ahmed said. “An employee must score high enough on the LSR exam to be “reachable,” and DOL must have the funding to hire permanent staff.”
The nine-year hourly employee, who is bilingual which is a plus for the division, became “reachable” on the list, with funding available to hire a permanent LSR. He was offered and accepted the position, but was told he would have to return to a trainee salary grade for one year.
“This appeared to contradict the “advanced placement” provision of the most recent LSR exam, and this individual was nervous about asking me, his steward, for help,” Ahmed said. “He did not want to jeopardize his new job by questioning management or be pegged as a troublemaker.
“I was well aware this individual met the qualifications for ‘advanced placement.’ I asked the department if personnel could confirm whether any long-term hourlies were bumped back to trainee status, once they were hired permanently, and was told they can’t compile that information.”
Ahmed advocated for this employee, with persistence and ignoring negative comments from management. And it paid off. A week later, the individual showed her his official job offer for the permanent position and was bumped to a full journeyman level, and given the appropriate salary.
“If this employee were hired permanently years ago, he probably would be a supervisor now,’ Ahmed said.
Frank Kasper, a LSR in Albany and Division 202 council leader, said, “In my opinion, if someone has given nine years of dedicated service in a position, and they are listed as temporary or hourly, I think the system is not working correctly. There are many employees who perform the same job as others or similar work and only receive partial benefits. They are not being treated equally or accumulating the basic credits that a permanent employee receives.
“Temporary work was ultimately and originally designed to be short term, and not long term. I believe years ago in the Labor Department, temporary employment had a beginning and end date. It is my opinion that the word ‘temporary’ is not used accurately. And it hasn’t been used appropriately by many state agencies.”
PEF Region 8 Coordinator Michael Blue said he is aware of many instances where temporary or hourly employees stay in the position without advancement opportunities.
“We want to help all individuals who are dues-paying members,” Blue said. “The way the state Civil Service Department and agencies handle these temporary cases is not according to the rules. A temporary position should last a maximum of nine months.
“We applaud our union sister, Scarlett, and all our other union leaders who have the fighting spirit. This case is an example of perseverance and integrity to help a member receive the proper title and pay he deserves.”