PEF was instrumental in the negotiation of the emergency telecommuting agreement. This included eliminating a provision that would have allowed management to inspect the home worksites of members who were telecommuting due to COVID-19. Per the new contract, the four-days-per-pay-period restriction on telecommuting was lifted and management must now develop and implement telecommuting plans at each agency within nine months of contract ratification (April 2022).
PEF obtained an extension of the dates during which the State will continue to provide its contribution to Dependent Care Advantage Accounts (DCAA).
PEF obtained an extension of the Productivity Enhancement Program (PEP), a program that allows employees to use annual or personal leave to help pay their share of health insurance premiums. As a result, PEP was available to employees for calendar year 2020. With the new contract now ratified, PEP was reinstated on a pro-rated basis for 2021 beginning on July 1. PEP will be fully in effect in 2022 and 2023. Maximum credits were increased from $500 to $600 for forfeiting 3 days of annual or personal leave and $1,000 to $1,200 for members who forfeit 6 days of annual or personal leave.
PEF has filed multiple grievances and lawsuits related to the calculation of overtime pay for COVID-19 related work, including where employees are not paid at their regular overtime rate or were ordered to “flex” time to avoid overtime.
PEF worked to ensure DOH employees get on-call pay. On-call pay was provided for the DOH COVID-19 hotline. Other grievances are still in process.
PEF challenged and won when the Department of Environmental Conservation attempted to cap COVID-19 related overtime for grades 23-27 at 12% of their annual salary.
PEF brought attention to the unfairness of delaying the April 1st state paychecks for the very workers that are putting their lives on the line for New York state.
PEF negotiated agreements for the carryover of annual, personal, and compensatory leave accruals when time could not be taken because of the COVID crisis, providing members with additional time to use excess accruals.
Protecting members from the coronavirus crisis
PEF negotiated a policy allowing members to wear their own protective masks in the workplace (Remember, this may seem easy now, but early on some Agencies were refusing to allow members to wear their own masks)
PEF secured tens of thousands of protective masks for distribution to PEF members and medical masks for health care professionals;
PEF purchased more than $360,000 worth of hotel rooms for PEF nurses around major medical centers in New York State including SUNY Stony Brook, SUNY Downstate, and SUNY Upstate, and submitted a plan requesting that SUNY continue this initiative for as long as needed.
PEF continues to advocate for Hazard Duty Pay for essential workers.
Providing members with information on the coronavirus and its impact on their health and employment
PEF held frequent telephone town hall meetings and Zoom calls where members were able to get answers to their questions. PEF supplied numerous members with guidance on benefits, leaves of absence, and dependent care regarding COVID-19. PEF provided workplace-related guidance to members who have compromised immune systems or other health concerns related to COVID-19.
PEF provided members with guidance regarding the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which provides paid leave under certain circumstances related to the Covid-19. This included assisting with grievances related to FFCRA when requests for leave were denied. We have also filed a lawsuit on this issue because members are being unfairly denied the FFCRA benefit.
PEF provided members with information on Accidental Death Benefits, including how to access Article 11 death benefits and death benefits provided through the Retirement System.
PEF set up a web page on for the latest information about the coronavirus.
Assisting members with their health-related benefits
PEF was instrumental in negotiating a telemedicine program for Empire Plan enrollees, which was rolled out on a pilot basis through the end of the calendar year, December 31, 2020. This program allowed members to have virtual appointments with Board Certified doctors and to have access to health care services remotely, utilizing their computer, tablet or smartphone, 24/7, for both medical and mental health visits, at no cost.
PEF helped numerous members with issues related to their health, dental, and vision insurance including
· resolving medical copay issues in the members’ favor
· reimbursement for mental health care even though claims were submitted after the normal deadline
· resolving issues with dental claims in the members’ favor when they were unable to go to their regular dentist due to Covid-19
PEF worked with DMV to delay implementation of significant changes to work hours, to assure 30 days notice is given before a schedule change.
PEF negotiated an agreement providing a 30-day extension of the time allowed for filing Article 34 grievances and appeals.