News From OSA - January, 2008

Contract. Members who attended the November membership meeting were aware that the union leadership had hopes of settling the current contract very soon. At the same time, no one knew when and if the City would give us a reasonable offer, so no promises were made.

As it turned out, in December, the City came up with numbers that were pleasing. The numbers were confirmed by the third Monday of that month and the negotiating team, after discussion, voted to recommend acceptance of the settlement offer.

Ballots were sent out to OSA members in titles covered by the contract, but no ballots (nor accompanying information) were sent to Agency Shop fee payers, nor to retirees who are off payroll, nor to members in the Transit Authority and others not affected by this contract.

The mailing included information on the offer, plus a ballot, and a return envelope. Ballots must be returned by 5PM on January 10, 2008 and counting will be at the union office. The letter appears on this website as part of the December 20, 2007 OSA Newsline.

This edition of News From OSA is being posted before the counting of the ballots on the main OSA contract. We do expect the contract to be approved, so a discussion of the gains in the contract is appropriate.

Essentially, OSA’s negotiating team recommended acceptance of a contract that mostly followed the UFT pattern, with increases in salary of 2% effective August 13, 2006 and 5% (compounded) as of February 13, 2007. The contract starts on July 13, 2006 and runs until August 24, 2008. Normally, raises start on the first day of the contract, but not in this case. For this contract, following the “pattern,” the raise of 2% starts in the second month and the “savings” are used to fund a one time $166.67 per capita contribution to the OSA Welfare Fund.

In addition, there is a $100 annual increase in the City's contribution to the OSA Welfare Fund as of July 13, 2006 and expansion of the transit check program to cover various suburban mass transit lines (LIRR, Metro North, etc). If and when the residency bill passes its legislative hurdles, our members will also be allowed to reside within the six New York counties near to New York City - Nassau, Westchester, Suffolk, Orange, Rockland or Putnam. The bill is currently being held up at the City Council. Some legislators favor allowing candidates and/or new employees, as well as existing employees, to reside in the New York suburban counties. Other legislators favor the relaxing of residency rules for all current employees, but would insist upon City residence for new employees. Those of us who were opposed to the residency rules when they were first passed in 1986 are impatient with the current dispute but, hopefully, it will be resolved soon.

There are a couple of provisions in the contract that are neither gains nor losses. There is a labor management committee on pension issues as well as a salary review panel.

We are aware of the Mayor’s views on the City pension plan. Fortunately, those of us already enrolled in the pension system are protected from diminishment of our pensions by the New York State Constitution, but we expect little goodness to come from this committee.

The salary review panel sounds impressive and beneficial but, in essence, it may be of dubious value. If the City wants to give an underpaid title or occupational group more money through collective bargaining, the union can agree and it happens. If, however, the City does not want to give an underpaid title or occupational group more money, the union’s opinion on the matter is of no import at all. Our union will try to work with this committee, but the committee may be more cosmetic than real. If the City wants to reduce the salary of our titles, it is obviously something we would disagree with.

More concretely, the last day of the contract triggers the start of (or increase of existing) longevity differentials for various titles. Different title series receive different amounts of longevity. The reason for the different amounts of longevity, by title, has to do with when a title became unionized. The earlier titles accumulated greater amounts of the differential. Our most recently organized titles will now be due, for the first time, $516 (a year) after ten years, $516 more after fifteen years and $520 more after completing twenty years.

Members in titles already eligible for longevity will simply add the $516, $516, and $520 to their existing longevity.

The titles and amounts due to them after 10, 15 and 20 years is shown on this chart.

What about the “One Per Cent”?

The 2002-2005 contract had a number of problems attached to it. First, the $1000 first year bonus (non-raise) meant that we all fell behind the rate of inflation for that year. The second year of the contract was okay, with a 3% raise, but the third year was for only 2% in return for serious give-backs. In addition, there was a final 1% due for July, 2004, but only if OSA and the City agreed on productivity savings equal to one percent.

As it turned out, the City did award the one percent to DC37, during an election year, for alleged savings of an entirely painless sort (Police Department civilization, contracting-in, etc.).

The City did not award any other union so freely thereafter.

Some unions gave back vacation time or added a few minutes to the working day or delayed future raises by ten months to obtain the one percent.

Communication Workers of America unions were fortunate in that the employer of one of the CWA unions wanted to give the one percent to their employees. Specifically, the members of the Board of Elections local, CWA Local 1183, were given credit for “mapping” improvements that had occurred sometime earlier. Since CWA locals 1180, 1181, 1182 and 1183 were in joint negotiations, some, but not all of the one percent was awarded to most CWA members.

Between July of 2004 and February of 2007, the City assured us that we could continue to propose productivity savings in return for the 1%. We settled our 2005-2006 contract on that basis. We were actually seven months into our 2006-2008 contract before the City announced that the price of a contract for 2006-2008 was giving up all hope of ever getting the 1% from 2004.

Both Teamsters Local 237 and OSA accused the City of bargaining in bad faith and filed Improper Practice cases before the Office of Collective Bargaining. Both unions subsequently settled their contracts and, as a part of that settlement, the “IP” cases were dropped.

What is OCB? The Office of Collective Bargaining is the neutral third party established by the NYC O.C.B. law. The role of the OCB is to encourage good faith bargaining on both sides - management and labor. If there was no OCB, or if it did not function well, our only way to protest against an improper labor practice would be for the union to go on strike... a rather drastic remedy.

Before the OCB, there was no neutral third party. Yet, at the same time, there was a law forbidding strikes by civil servants. The result was widespread law breaking by literally tens of thousands of local government workers throughout the 1960's. Both the OCB law and, a year later, the New York State Taylor Law sought to find a middle ground between labor and management. Judging by the reduced numbers of government employee strikes, it would seem that the OCB has fulfilled the purpose for which it was established.

The OSA negotiating team and our attorneys had done an impressive job of preparing and researching our case, but a number of factors led the negotiating team to recommend settlement.

Even our expected victory at the OCB would not automatically get us one percent. The hearing officer at OCB could have, and probably would have, brought effective pressure upon the City to supply us with the information we had long requested. That information would cause the City difficulty and potential embarrassment. Even so, the City could be expected to drag out negotiations as their primary tactic.

Normally, a delay in a contract is distressing but not particularly damaging, since raises are retroactive. Also, most members strongly favor getting every penny due to us, even if it takes longer. This year, however, members of the negotiating team became concerned that the sub-prime mortgage problem could dramatically affect the NYC economy. Delay became more worrisome than would normally be the case.

Finally, the City’s eventual offer on the longevity service differentials was both significant and favorable. Why longevity?

The Additional Compensation Funds (or equity) are those monies which can be used by the union for purposes other than a general wage increase. Initially used during the Koch administration, the ACF was designed to allow the unions to address their perceived needs aside from a general increase.

Some unions used it to create assignment differentials for particularly distressing jobs (for example, Child Protective Services Caseworkers - SSEU Local 371). Others have used it to reward professional service in a specific field (Accountants - Local 1407). OSA has always used the ACF to create or improve longevity/service differentials.

New York City, until the 1960's, was covered by the old Career and Salary Plan. That plan did reward long service quite generously, but the plan was discarded by Mayor John Lindsay and DC37 Executive Director Victor Gottbaum after 1965.

Today, the most common usage of the ACF by municipal unions is to provide longevity differentials. Even so, no union has yet reached the level of the Career and Salary plan, although, some are getting close. The proposed settlement offer goes a long way towards closing the gap between the long lost old “plan” and the current system.

Our union members deserve credit for supporting the union’s fight over a ten month period. We would not have done so well if we had caved in at the end of February and, if we had not fought, we would have done even worse the next time.

General Membership Meeting. This month's general membership meeting is set for Thursday, January 31, 2008 and will, as usual, start at 6:00 PM sharp at the union office, 220 East 23rd Street Suite 707 NYC (between 2nd and 3rd Avenues). You can download a meeting flyer here for posting and to remind you of the date, time and location.