News From OSA - January, 2002

The changeover from one Mayor to the next is always a time of difficulties for some and opportunity for others. A number of our members lost their jobs just before 12/31/01 or shortly thereafter.

In the days before the civil service was established, all government jobs were up for grabs with each change of party or faction in power. These days, the impact is far less on government overall, but no less devastating to those still affected.

OSA received a number of phone calls from members being fired or demoted. In each case, our representatives reviewed the details of the caller's situation. All permanent employees were secure in the retention of their civil service lines but often at a cost of demotion from their prior, higher, provisional positions. Even those provisional employees who had served over two years in their title at the same agency were, as union members, safe from arbitrary dismissal or demotion.

Inevitably, of course, there were some who did not have a permanent civil service line and also had less than two years of provisional service or who were not now in our union. For those persons, our representatives could only express our sympathy.

Our representatives put in a phone call to the Comptrollers Office on behalf of a half dozen of our members designated for termination on 12/31/01. The return phone call was prompt.

We were informed by Robert Rubin, the retiring Chief of Personnel for the Comptroller, that all those being terminated were provisional employees with less than two years in title, or else managers not covered by the union. The outgoing Comptroller was simply clearing out the office for the incoming Comptroller, nothing more.

This, indeed, is the nature of electoral politics.

It does not, however, seem very fair to the innocent workers facing job loss. They often believed their job security depended on how well their jobs were being performed. Sadly, they were wrong.

Moving the List. The full story of the Associate Staff Analyst list of 2001 will not be written for a long while to come. Although civil service exam lists can expire after only one year, it has been the City's practice to extend the lists for up to the normal maximum of four years.

The ASA list itself is actually over half a hundred separate "Agency" promotional lists. Our results, overall, have been uneven. Some Agencies have rushed to move the list and have already made large numbers of appointments. Other Agencies sat frozen as if they did not know what to do with the certification lists sent to them by the Personnel section of the Department of Administrative Services.

Many distressed candidates have called the union or come to visit seeking information or help. In a number of Agencies, there were numerous cases of individual candidates who were "considered but not selected" in absentia. These candidates were called to no promotion pools, were given no interviews and were (more often than not) passed over for appointment against the will of their immediate superiors.

One point sometimes lost in the distress caused by an Agency's use of the one in three is that numerous other new appointments do get made. Our members at the Agency for Children's Services were very angry over the ACS actions at the first pool. Even so, on that day two dozen Staff Analysts are reported to have been newly appointed to Associate Staff Analyst positions. This number is in addition to any "rollovers" of candidates already serving as ASA's or higher.

Our union, along with most active and concerned civil service unions, would dearly like to see the one-in-three relegated to the dust bin of history. For now, it is the law.

OSA sent out, in advance of the moving of the lists, a letter to each of the twelve hundred candidates. The letter explained the process to come and went into detail over the potential use of the one-in-three rule by some agencies. What has now occurred in some Agencies is the use of the one-in-three to bypass a small percentage of the candidates in order to get further "down" the list to reach favored candidates such as Assistant Commissioners and the like.

Nota Bene. All candidates, appointed, or CNS'D or other are to return their Survey forms and sheets at the union office. If you have lost or misplaced your form, call George Morgan at the office for a replacement.

So long as an agency stays within the limits allowed by the letter (if not the spirit) of the law, no legal remedy is available. So long as all candidates who have been "considered but not selected" are granted their request for restoration to the list, no necessarily fatal damage will have been done to their careers. In the normal course of events, agencies use the list to make appointments to new ASA positions during the life of the list.

OSA's Executive Director, Sheila Gorsky, is carefully watching to insure that no agency goes further and actually breaks the law. Our tools to check the agency performance are a combination of the information received from our own members and OSA's regular use of the freedom of information law.

Frames Galore. Last year, OSA's Welfare Fund, in response to complaints that our old vision provider did not have enough sites, moved to NVA (National Vision Administrators).

NVA it turned out did have more participating opticians, but their panel was far less tightly run than the prior panel. Over the months that followed, NVA's office operation did improve, a number of opticians were dropped from the plan for their behavior towards our members, and OSA itself sent out a guide form for our members to use. Taken all together, the improvements have all helped but we were still not satisfied.

In January, Dr. Richard Ullman, founder of both NVA and NPA (the City PICA drug card) came in person to the OSA office with a further and needed improvement.

A new (and large) panel of opticians is joining NVA in the near future. CPS Inc. (Comprehensive Professional Systems Incorporated) will add its many providers to NVA's already extensive list but that is an incidental benefit. The main improvement is that CPS Inc. provides all its stores with a wide variety of good-quality frames at no cost to OSA plan members.

Excellent.

One of our members loudest complaints came from the small number of frames offered by some optometrists.

The representatives of CPS Inc. brought along their boxes of available frames. Most of our union's staff/officers and volunteers were paraded past the display. Each person asked was able to find one or more acceptable frames from among the selection available.

The Trustees gave NVA our tentative approval on their plans to go forward. The Welfare Fund will notify members of the details of the improved program as soon as all the doctors have signed on and new booklets are printed.

At the same time, it was agreed to drop from the panel two more optical offices that have consistently sought to overcharge our members.

The union has no problem with members who chose to buy designer name frames as a fashion statement. Meanwhile those members who simply want a decent pair of glasses at no cost should not be forced to pay extra because a tiny selection of "plan" frames is displayed.

Negotiations continue but are nearing conclusion at the Transit Authority. The major stumbling block remaining is payment, at time and one half, for overtime worked over forty hours in a week.

The Authority's position is that there is a cost, to the Authority, of agreeing to time and a half. The TA has set the cost at 3 1/2% of overall salary and would like the union to pay that cost out of our monetary package. The union in turn feels that time and a half for overtime over 40 hours in a week was established as a national principle in 1935. If the TA has been violating that principle for all the years before OSA showed up, that is still no reason for our members to now pay for what should be theirs by right. Other contracts that are still in progress are our uniformed members at the Police Department School Safety and Traffic Enforcement Division, the New York City Housing Authority and the OTB contracts.

Also, we are expecting the City to generate the numbers for our final 1% equity (additions to longevity/raise) soon. Finally, also sometime soon, we expect to receive the $125 per member reimbursement of drug rider that is due since last year.

Other Information. These two articles are saved in PDF format and can be downloaded and read in Adobe Acrobat Reader.

Information on the personnel Tax Credit for Retirement Savings Contribution - This information was thoughtfully provided by Georgette Gesterly of the Office of Labor Relations.

A reprint of Nina Bernstein's article recounting HRA Commissioner Jason Turner's last act of betrayal of the WEP workforce.

Good & Welfare. . . Bill Douglas, the former Executive Vice-Chairperson of OSA, is a graduate of the Metropolitan Institute for Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy. Bill has a New York State license and is a fully-qualified Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist.

The Analysts of OSA do not normally have expertise in this sort of analysis, but Bill now does and the one thing we do know is that for all his life, Bill has been a good and attentive listener. That, of course, is at least one part of his role. Bill can be reached at: 56 East 87th Street, New York, NY 10128. Telephone: (212) 876-6787

OSA General Membership Meeting. The next OSA general membership meeting is to be held on Thursday, January 31, 2002 at the OSA Office 220 East 23rd Street, Suite 707, NYC at 6:00 PM sharp. See you there.

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