By KATE MOSTACCIO
PS&T contract negotiations have been on hold since COVID-19 began its rampage in New York but the pandemic has given PEF’s members recognition that may serve the union at the bargaining table.
“Today, public opinion is on our side and we are not just seen as the union looking for money,” said Contract Team Chair Darlene Williams. “We are being seen in a way I never thought possible. The public appreciates us and that will go a long way when we come to the table.”
For example, the temporary telecommuting agreement with the state has proven that remote work can be done and it can be done well.
“We have started to get movement on telecommuting,” she said. “Our members have done a wonderful job working from home.”
Williams said another issue the team had been fighting for, hazardous duty pay, has been thrust into the spotlight by COVID.
“Many are aware that hazardous duty pay is 75 cents extra an hour,” Williams said. “We told GOER [the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations] that amount was not enough. We lost our lives. New York sees us as heroes and calls us heroes. We are demanding that we receive hazardous duty pay. Your Contract Team demanded higher hazardous duty pay before COVID.”
The Contract Team is looking forward to returning to the bargaining table but recognizes the challenging times and financial woes New York still faces.
“We need to concentrate on being strong together,” Williams said. “The wolves are out there, they are watching, don’t allow them to see a crack in our union. We are stronger together.”