Contract Team: ‘We Are Standing Firm’
BY KATE MOSTACCIO
Following a rousing and inspiring 2019 PEF Convention, the PS&T contract team continues to stand firm on the issues most important to PEF members during negotiations with the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations.
“We began this process by asking the membership what changes they would like to see in our contract,” said Contract Chair Darlene Williams. “We researched these requests, drafted specific contract language, and brought a selection of the most popular and pressing issues to the table.”
Improvements to dental benefits are high on the contract team’s agenda, Williams said.
“The Emblem Health Plan hasn’t been out to bid in decades,” Williams said. “It’s grossly deficient, especially for people who don’t live in urban areas or along the I-90 corridor.”
The Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) and United University Professors (UUP) get more funding from the state to administer their own benefit funds, Williams said, enabling the unions to decide what is best for their members. The contract team is seeking significant improvements in PEF dental benefits, looking at a full range of options to get the best outcome for members and their families.
“The current benefits are lacking in participating specialists and dentists in rural areas,” Williams said. “The fee schedule has not been increased in years and dentists have no incentive to join the Emblem Health network.”
Longevity and downstate adjustment
Performance awards have not increased since 1988, Williams said, and the contract team is hard at work negotiating improvements.
Also stagnant are downstate and Mid-Hudson adjustments, or location pay. “These were last increased in 2008,” Williams said.
Both pay issues are on the table and PEF is standing firm on getting a fair and respectful improvement on both.
The contract team continues to advocate strongly for PEF members’ top concerns, including overtime and on-call eligibility, compensation, health insurance, and more.
“Many PEF members get zero compensation for being on call,” Williams said. “Many are required to work overtime on a regular basis and receive zero overtime compensation. Our salaries have lagged behind rising inflation and health care costs for decades.”
The contract team is proposing changes that would improve the grievance process. “There are currently no consequences if management does not respond to grievances in a timely manner,” Williams said. “This makes the grievance process ineffective and frustrating for our members. We feel that much of what we are asking for in a new contract are matters of basic respect and fairness.”
Stand with your team
PEF is ready for a fight to secure a fair and respectful contract. “We are standing firm on the issues PEF members have indicated are important to them and their families,” Williams said.
“So far the state has refused to budge on many of these issues, but we would rather continue to fight for a deal that benefits our members in a meaningful way than to settle quickly for a contract that fails to honor our commitment and service,” she said.
As the negotiations continue, the team urges members to stand unified with them. “We ask that members remain steadfast in their commitment to getting a fair contract,” Williams said. “We will ask members to demonstrate that support in the coming weeks.”
Carrying the #UnionStrong message, hundreds of delegates took a stand at the PEF Convention, using one of their lunch breaks to walk to the Empire State Plaza for a Unity Photo and a stroll around the plaza. See a video of the walk here and download the Unity Photo here. Sharing both across social media and displaying the photo in your workspace are great ways to stand with the PEF contract team.
“If we are able to achieve a breakthrough in negotiations soon, it will be because our members stood up and their voices were heard,” Williams said. “Please remember, a union is only as strong as its membership. Stay informed, stay united, and stay active.
“Together, we can get the deal that we, as New York state professionals, deserve,” she said. “Every voice counts.”
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