News From OSA - August, 2005

Some progress reports are needed.

CONTRACTS. OSA negotiates a number of contracts, but all tend to follow upon the main "City" contract which, in turn, is affected by the "pattern" contract negotiated by DC 37. And since DC 37 recently concluded the 7/1/02 - 6/30/05 contract by adding a final 1% for the year 7/1/04 - 6/30/05, it is our turn to bargain. (Please note, we would have been willing to start earlier, but the City would not have concluded with us before DC 37 settled unless we were willing to accept less than the DC 37 settlement).

We were probably the first of the smaller unions to arrive at the bargaining table this July and issues were easily outlined. The City stated that 37 had offered give backs worth 1% as follows: An agreement to jointly urge reduction in sick leave usage (for which OSA gets credit automatically), an agreement to have clerical employees replace uniformed officers doing clerical tasks and an agreement to have City computer workers do more work "in house" rather than through the use of vendors.

OSA responded that the 37 givebacks seemed to work well for our own situation since we have a great many members working as civilians, alongside, and at the same tasks, as the higher ranks of the uniformed forces, and also that our Analysts would be entirely willing to do the analytical work now being farmed out to contract vendor agencies.

The City absorbed our arguments and asked if we had any other suggestions for productivity savings and we did. We suggested that a regular program of Voluntary Unpaid Furloughs would benefit the City, especially in relation to the Analyst title series. As matters now stand, the city uses on-the-job training for most administrative positions. By the time a long service civil servant has advanced to an Analyst position, he or she will usually have learned to perform well at a half dozen or more earlier jobs or levels. The value to the City of an Analyst being well trained is obvious.

An example given at negotiations was of an Analyst who, on his second day at work as an Analyst at HRA, was sent to solve a problem in a Welfare Center. The Center Director had requested expert help from Central Office because the record keeping system of the office was in chaos. Two days later, the Analyst was back at Central Office and the Center Director called to express her gratitude for the Analyst's work in resolving the entire problem. In this case, the reason for his ability to conceive of and implement a cure for the existing problem came from the newly-appointed Analyst's prior experience. The Analyst had fifteen years of prior work experience within the agency in a variety of administrative roles. As a result, he had become excellent at bureaucratic problem solving. If, however, that same Analyst had requested a leave of absence of six months, a year, or more, the request would have been refused.

No matter how good the reason nor how great the need, few OSA members are ever granted permission to take six months or a year off. Instead, in most cases, they are told to sit where they are or resign. Of course, if they do resign, the City loses them and their years of on the job training since they will never return. If, as a part of these negotiations, the City agrees to allow voluntary unpaid furloughs, within reasonable limits, to Analysts, the City will benefit in a number of ways. Not only will the City cut down on its loss of career employees, but it will gain from the extra education some will seek while on leave. In addition, of course, there will be an improvement in morale (to some extent) since workers will no longer feel entirely a slave to their careers.

Finally, in extreme cases, a furlough will be sought by an Analyst stuck in a dead-end job with no interest nor challenge to the work. It is certainly good for both the City and the member that a creative mind is not wasted by the accident of inappropriate job assignment.

In any case, OSA is clearly willing to discuss and argue for the value of voluntary furloughs as a part of our current negotiations.

When and if these negotiations ever reach a successful conclusion, our union has a number of other contracts that will thereafter need to follow in their turn. Members can call the OSA Newsline or visit the Newsline page of this website for reports on negotiations since any and all news will appear there first.

EXAM. You can download two charts related to the 6/25/05 Administrative Staff Analyst Exam. The first, an Item Analysis, shows how many of our members chose each answer to the 100 questions. The second is the City's proposed answer key, listing which answers the Department of Personnel thought were correct. By the time you read this, our members who were candidates will already have had a chance to review the test papers and write their protests, if any, to DCAS' choice of answers.

We provide the charts for your review so all members can note that an Item Analysis can be a help in two ways. First, candidates can get a general idea of how they did before DCAS issues its key. Second, and perhaps more important, by comparing one's own paper against the analysis and the proposed key, a candidate can single out questions where many other candidates also got the answer "wrong."

This is of value if there are questions related to judgment and there often are. If a question is a matter of fact, it does not matter if most candidates are wrong, they are just wrong. In matters of judgment, however, if a great many candidates disagree with the key answer, the test validation board reviewers may well take note.

For example, on questions 3, 50 and 55, better than four-out-of-five candidates disagreed with the key answer. In ten cases, two thirds of the candidates chose a different answer than the key and, thus, those questions merit a careful reading at a review session. Even so, keep in mind that September has 30 days and even if four out of five think it has 31, they would be wrong.

Our union will request to meet with Personnel at an appropriate time to discuss the exam and the letters we (and they) have received relating to the exam.

CIVIL DISCORD. The split within the AFL-CIO concerns us, even though OSA is not affiliated. On the one hand, OSA has been the very model of a perfect union from the viewpoint of the dissidents who urge a full-scale organizing effort and less money to political action. On the other hand, those same dissidents should note that if the political arena is entirely abandoned, unions may soon be outlawed.

There is only one bright possibility that may occur as a result of the national dispute. It is at least possible that in order to survive, one or both factions may choose to move towards greater internal democracy at all levels of their structures. That result could be of enormous long-term value to us all.

SUMMER MAILING TIME... is upon us and, as you receive this, the final pieces are being assembled for our annual, very large, bulk rate mailing.

This one will be more political than usual, first because of Social Security and the general long term erosion of worker salaries versus the tax related enrichment of the rich. Our second reason for a more political slant than usual is the war.

Members will recall our union newsletter argued against our nation going to war in Iraq in the first place. It is as if we have stepped in a patch of hot tar and we can't get out and it hurts a lot.

One piece that overflowed from the Summer Mailing can be downloaded here. It is a short story "Suspicion" with end notes. It is recommended that you read the story first and the end notes after.

ENDORSEMENTS. We would like you to know that in addition to Fernando Ferrer for Mayor, our Executive Board has also endorsed, for citywide office, Bill Thompson for Comptroller and Norman Siegel for Public Advocate. Bill is clearly a heavy front runner, but Norman is part of a crowded field and especially needs your vote (if you are a registered Democrat).

THE LABOR DAY PARADE. The Parade will be held this year on Saturday, September 10th. OSA members are gathering at 11am in front of the Wachovia Bank on the corner of Sixth Avenue and 45th Street. Download and keep our invitation to march with the OSA contingent as a reminder. All those marching will receive OSA hats and t-shirts.

OSA GENERAL MEMBERSHIP MEETING. The next General Membership meeting is to be held on Thursday, September 29, 2005 starting at 6pm sharp in the union office at 220 East 23rd Street, Suite 707. A meeting notice can be downloaded here to remind you of the date.