Health insurance, compensation discussions open; small-table talks going well in PEF contract talks with the state
BY KATHERINE MOSTACCIO
Discussions have been opened on issues such as health insurance, compensation and paid family leave — top priorities for PEF members — at the latest meetings with state negotiators on a new PS&T contract. The two sides met April 9 and 10.
“Health insurance and compensation are the biggest priorities, in terms of money for our members,” said PEF Contract Team Chair Darlene Williams. Talks around compensation include discussions on longevity pay, overtime and on-call eligibility, and geographic adjustments, she said.
After the state’s initial reaction to PEF’s proposals, Williams stressed that respect on both sides of the negotiating table is paramount. “We may not always agree but there has to be a level of respect at this table,” she said. Although there has been significant pushback by the state, the support of the membership with the Members in Black campaign was important in showing PEF unity when we discussed compensation issues at the table.” Williams noted that “continued support and engagement will help us meet our goals.”
In contrast to the sometimes difficult sessions at main-table negotiations, the small-table meetings are going well, she said. “GOER [Governor’s Office of Employee Relations] reps are really listening,” she said. “We are really getting things done at the small-table.”
One of the team’s strategies has been to bring in members from different agencies to discuss issues. So far they have brought in PEF Region 12 Coordinator Nora Higgins, a teaching and research nurse 2 at SUNY Stony Brook; John Buttino, a PEF steward and fire protection specialist 1 at the state Office of Fire Prevention and Control; and Scarlett Ahmed, a PEF Executive Board member who works at the state Department of Labor and discussed the inequities faced by long-term non-permanent hourly employees.
Small table discussions have included discipline, grievances, professional development, labor management issues, work/life balance issues, hourly employees, employee organization rights and the current situation at Stony Brook University Hospital.
The team is fighting to achieve across-the-board wage increases that recognize the hard work and sacrifices of the PEF membership, and has made proposals to enhance performance advances and awards, inconvenience pay, location pay, and hazardous duty pay, among others.
“The contract team will continue to move forward in this battle to secure a contract that reflects both the respect and the economic gains PEF members deserve,” Williams said.
The next main-table negotiations will be May 7 and 8. The next small-table meeting will be held May 9.