PS&T contract negotiations continue – 2019 Contract
PS&T contract negotiations continue; hourly members share their stories
BY KATHERINE MOSTACCIO
The contract team continues to meet with state negotiators to discuss health insurance, compensation and paid family leave provisions for a new PS&T contract.
“We continue to advocate for our members’ top priorities,” 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.
Small table discussions have included discipline, grievances, professional development, labor management issues, work/life balance issues, employee organization rights, the situation at Stony Brook University Hospital, and permanence for long-term hourly employees.
Williams said the team has received numerous letters from PEF hourly employees, many of whom work at the Department of Labor (DOL) for numerous years, yet they don’t have permanent status and don’t receive the salary and benefits that co-workers in permanent positions receive, such as longevity and location pay, even though they do the same work. This drives home the urgency for change for hourlies in PEF-represented positions. Williams said that DOL is inappropriately using long-term hourly employees for permanent staffing and this is just fundamentally unfair. An employee should not be in an hourly non-permanent status for years on end. We are fighting to change this.
Hourly employees make substantially less than their permanent peers in the DOL, letter writers asserted. “As an hourly, I’m responsible for the same duties permanent LSRs [labor services representatives] perform,” stated one long-term hourly LSR who has worked for DOL for nine years in a letter to PEF Executive Board Member Scarlett Ahmed. “However, I earn about $15,000 to $18,000 less a year than a permanent with eight years of experience. Moreover, as an hourly, I can’t be considered for promotions or transfers.
“To add insult to injury, I also earn less than permanent LSRs with two years of experience. Go figure,” this PEF member wrote. “I feel like a second-class citizen at DOL.”
Many other letter writers echoed the writer’s sentiments.
“I recently discovered — thanks to it being public record — that a permanent staff member hired a year before me earns approximately $20,000 more than me, excluding longevity payments and location pay,” one wrote. “Is that even legal? This impacts the moral of the office greatly as you can imagine.”
In addition to the large pay gap between hourly and permanent, letter writers pointed out their inability to move up in their field.
“Hourly LSRs are forced to compete with the public for the few available permanent positions via open competitive exams,” one DOL employee wrote. “In the interest of fairness, hourly LSRs should be allowed to take transitional exams to become permanent, and lists established from transitional exams should be canvassed by HR before open competitive lists. Or hourlies with many years of experience and excellent performance evaluations should be allowed to transition into permanency without examination.”
Sick leave accruals were also high on the list of issues. For hourlies, employees must complete a “qualifying” service of 19 pay periods without a break of more than one complete pay period before they are eligible to earn sick leave.
That’s about nine months.
“As a mother of a baby and a toddler I will become ill more often until they develop a stronger immune system,” said one PEF member. “It is a hard decision to make when you are sick, and you must decide whether your health or paying rent and childcare is more important.”
The PEF contract team is fighting to achieve across-the-board wage increases that recognize the hard work and sacrifices of the PEF membership. There are 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 to secure a contract that reflects the economic gains and benefits all PEF members deserve,” Williams said.
The next main table negotiations will be July 9. There was a small table meeting June 26, and more are slated for July 8, 15 and 16.