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The PEF Contract Team is asking members across the state to voice their opinions on 13 questions and will use their answers to shape the direction of negotiations going forward.

At a telephone town hall held Tuesday, May 18, PEF’s chief negotiator, Mark Richard, said that PEF is at a crossroads and needs to have a conversation about strategy.

“Here is the timing question we want you to think about,” Richard said. “We’re going on two years without a successor contract. Do we take raises and retroactivity and ratify a contract, or do we do all of it now, no matter how long it takes, to get as many issues as you can?

“This is a democratic union,” he said. “The members own this union and President Spence knows this is a difficult question. He wants the members’ voice. Whatever we do, we need to do it together.”

President Wayne Spence said hard decisions need to be made and member feedback is critical.

The questions posed at the town hall, on which members were able to vote and which were subsequently sent to all members who couldn’t attend via email, are as follows:

  1. Are you aware of the contract enforcement battles, the active lawsuits and grievances, member mobilizations and Albany lobby efforts PEF is currently conducting?
  2. Which of the following PEF communications do you read to get your contract negotiation information: PEF website, email, social media, PEF on the Move?
  3. How important is it to you that we fight for a retroactive salary increase, given our contract battle with the state is still going on over two years?
  4. Should the negotiating team try to close out a contract now with retroactive pattern salary increases (totaling $1 billion) and then go right back to the table to achieve other improvements for our next contract?
  5. Are you aware that the state is demanding concessions that other unions agreed to regarding health insurance and overtime rates in order for members to get any raises?
  6. Do you agree that the PEF leadership, along with other unions, should continue its campaign to have the Legislature and Governor provide for a COVID hazard bonus in recognition of those who worked the front lines, even if we settle a contract?
  7. New York State has a Paid Family Leave program. PEF wants your opinion about whether we should opt into this program. It is important to note that this is an employee-funded insurance program paid for through payroll deductions. Everybody in the bargaining unit would have to contribute to the program, regardless of whether they use the benefit.

The program provides for up to 12 weeks of paid leave for (1) the care of a newborn or newly adopted or fostered children, (2) the care of a close relative with a serious health condition, or (3) to assist a family member due to a military deployment.

The benefit is currently capped at about $972 a week. The current payroll employee deduction is capped at about $14.82 per paycheck or $385 per year. Do you want PEF to opt in to the NYS employee funded Paid Family Leave Program?

Questions eight through 13 asked members to rank the importance of key issues in the current or immediate next round of contract talks, including improvements to longevity pay awards, location pay increases, improvements to dental insurance, nurse short staffing issues, improvements to the telecommuting program, and the ability to cash in unused accruals.

“PEF is considered one of the most democratic unions in the country,” Spence said. “While I might have my own viewpoint on how things should be done, I am not negotiating a contract for Wayne Spence. I’m negotiating a contract for 50,000 plus members. I can’t bring everybody to the table, but I do know that these questions and how we communicate with you are important.”

Negotiations are set to resume May 25 and 26.