News From OSA - June, 2015

This is the last mailing before the large summer mailing – and we have a lot to cover.

SEMINARS. Our summer mailing is now in the planning stages and we need your help to decide what seminars should be held. In the past, there have been seminars about pre-retirement planning, long-term care planning and insurance, stop smoking, business writing, statistics, transfers within City agencies, civil service procedures, financial planning using the City’s Deferred Compensation Plan and still others in different years. You can click on the link to download a form to complete and return ASAP with topics for seminars you would like to attend. If there is enough interest, we will add them to the list of seminars to be held.

EXAMS. This is being written between the two exam days, after the Staff and Associate exams and before the Administrative Staff Analyst exam. We have both experience and advice. Our experience with the Staff and Associate exams was mixed. On the one hand, one must admire the careful design of a series of exams all coming together on a single day.

If you took the Staff Analyst exam, you were sent to a classroom where your exam was only for persons taking the Staff Analyst exam. If you were taking the Associate Staff Analyst exam, you were sent to a different classroom. If you were taking both the Staff and the Associate exams, you went to a third classroom for those candidates taking both exams.

Since, in addition, Education Analyst and Education Officer exams were also being given, and since on top of all the variations, some candidates had to complete the selective certification requirements attached to all of these exams, the sorting process for assignment of candidates was mind boggling.

It was an elegant solution to combine – in a single 100 question test – two separate tests. If you took either Staff or Associate you answered sixty of the same questions, but Staff candidates and Associate candidates each answered a different final twenty questions. If you filed to take both Staff and Associate Staff Analyst exams, you completed all one hundred questions. The design was excellent and, at some locations, it worked out smoothly.

On the other hand, for many candidates the operation was far from smooth. In some cases, the experience was truly dreadful. The OSA representatives at each of the schools watched the process and listened to reports from the candidates. Thereafter, our union (and we assume DCAS as well) has received telephone and mail reports of the downside of this complex operation.

We will, as in prior years, be collecting all of these reports and sharing them with DCAS with the hope that we can help improve test administration for years to come. It may be hard for a candidate who suffered the worst of the recent experiences to believe, but we have seen worse yet in earlier years.

One year, many candidates were subjected to a total of sixteen hours of waiting, processing and then taking multiple exams before staggering out to catch the last train home. That was the year of three separate four-hour exams, plus waiting and administrative processing. Those exams were only to move from Staff Analyst to Associate Staff Analyst. You could have skipped one or two of the specialized exams that day, and you could have left early, but if you did, you reduced your chances of passing and being appointed.

This letter would be very long if we listed all the complaints received regarding the most recent exams, but we can summarize the most common and most serious.

Waiting time varied from school to school. Doors opened at Stanton Street nearly on time, about 8:35AM. It was nearly an hour later at Washington Irving. The West 49th Street location was still later yet.

In the afternoon, Stanton Street was a bit delayed due to leftover administrative problems from the morning exams. This was not a problem at Washington Irving, as they did not have afternoon exams.

Folks at West 49th Street were very seriously distressed, not only because of the morning delay, but also because of a number of other factors. Band practice at the West 49th Street school location, plus other activities, not only affected exam administration, it also distracted test takers. Weekend construction in the school building limited the available bathrooms to one Men's Room and one Ladies' Room for the entire school.

For some candidates, West 49th Street was a horror.

Similar reports were received from the three Brooklyn schools.

In at least one reported incident, a candidate asserted that his classroom received poor instruction and was told to complete 100 questions in the time allotted for 80 questions.

Frequent reports were received of some classrooms being air conditioned, while others were not.

ADVICE. If we can get this mailing into candidate's hands before the next exam date, we can hope the following advice will be helpful.

Yes! By all means try to arrive early at the test site, since late arrivals can mean you will not get to take the exam. But please, once you are there early, feel free to take turns on line so you can make use of shady trees or local coffee shops to keep yourself fresh for the exams.

Do expect that things may go wrong – they often do – but resolutely keep a good attitude and focus on the test once you have it before you. No matter what difficulties you may encounter, be comforted by the likelihood that you are far from alone and all must simply try to do their best.

ADMINISTRATIVE STAFF ANALYST SELECTIVE CERTIFICATIONS. Over 6,000 candidates will be taking the Administrative Staff Analyst exam (promotional and open competitive) on June 27, 2015 at six schools throughout the city. If you are taking the exam and have not received your admission notice yet visit DCAS at 1 Centre Street, 14th Floor.

The Notice of Exam (NOE) for the open competitive test, which is posted below, discusses a selective certification for special experience on pages 9 and 10. Please review all 21 selective certifications listed.

Notice of Exam: Administrative Staff Analyst Open Competitive

The NOE for the promotional exam, posted below, discusses 8 selective certifications on page 5.

Notice of Exam: Administrative Staff Analyst Promotional

You will be given the opportunity at the exam to choose any selective certifications for which you are qualified, so please read them carefully in order to familiarize yourself with the qualifications. You many choose as many selective certifications as you are qualified for.

If you become qualified through experience at a later date, you may write to DCAS and request to be placed on that selective certification list.

Since the open competitive list is likely to be very long, DCAS is offering the 21 selective certification lists. These should have many fewer candidates on each list. If you are on a selective certification list, you may be called sooner to be appointed.

NEGOTIATIONS. Our union has become impatient with the negotiating process. We made very reasonable demands, and while we did ask for more than other unions, e took care that our demands were in accord with the fiscal pattern.

Some members call in to remind us that they have been without a raise for many years. This is not news to us, since we have been waiting just as long. It is also wrong to assign blame to our union for most of that delay, since it was Mayor Bloomberg who had offered three years of no raises in return for health give backs.

Further, we would hope that every member realizes that the City, once Bloomberg was gone, would reach to settle the oldest contracts first (Teachers, Nurses, etc.), and then the contract of the largest group (DC37), so a pattern was in place.

Our bargaining started at the end of September of 2014, at our general membership meeting. At that meeting it was discussed that, while we could not hope to exceed the "pattern" we would nonetheless seek some other items that members had asked for, and we had been unable to get from Mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg. We knew our strategy would take longer than if we sought nothing more than the minimal pattern, yet we felt that if we did not seek these gains under Mayor de Blasio we would never get them.

In October, we began serious bargaining sessions. As is normal, things took a while to get real, since the City goes through formalities at the start of every contract bargaining.

Our negotiations became more concrete with the arrival of Bob Linn, the City's Chief Negotiator. We became hopeful of a quick agreement. Our hope lasted through a series of meetings, but as time passed we became less hopeful. The City entertained all of our demands and asked many questions, and even seemed to be moving forward.

For example, our request for the four-day week was discussed in detail, apparently in line with a City intent to agree. Then, caveats began to be brought up. One example would be a “sunset clause,” enacted so that if the practice, once implemented, did not work out, the City would not be bound to continue. In order to expedite negotiations, the union did not object.

Next, the City suggested that, to start, a single agency be used as a “pilot project.” Again, we did not object. Then, the City suggested that the Human Resources Administration (HRA) be the agency for this “pilot project.” “Fine,” responded the union.

Finally, the City told us that the exercise in accommodating us was over, because HRA (the only agency they suggested) was not interested in a compressed work schedule. To this, the union did not agree, nor did we accept the City's answer, or stop there.

One week later, three veterans of HRA, all members of our union's bargaining team, met with Commissioner Steven Banks, the top officer of HRA. He responded to our proposal for a four-day week (where practicable) with enthusiasm.

Commissioner Banks, in fact, stated that our proposal fit in perfectly with his hopes to improve morale at HRA, and he wanted to know what he could do to help us. It was obvious to the OSA bargaining team that we were never going to succeed if we relied upon the Office of Labor Relations and the formal bargaining process in this matter. We had done all that we were supposed to do, as we had to do according to the law. Therefore, we moved to the next forum.

We now have the support of high level City officers, such as Public Advocate Letitia James;Comptroller Scott Stringer; and Commissioner of the Administration for Children's Services Gladys Carrión. We have also had favorable discussions with Dr. Ramanathan Raju, president of the Health and Hospitals Corporation, and a number of other commissioners of smaller agencies.

Our favorite response in support of the idea came from Commissioner Fidel Del Valle of the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings. He said that he did care very much about the quality of the work done by his largely professional staff, but he did not care about their work schedule. The quality of the work done was vital; being on a five-day schedule was not.

He also stated that the receptionist at the front desk would still need to be there Monday to Friday, 9AM to 5PM, but only because nothing else would make sense. Our union agrees. Not every job lends itself to a compressed work schedule.

Our union will continue meeting with OLR, because that is the only forum that can finalize our contract. We will not be distressed by their cancellation of formal meetings, nor by the hard time they seem to have finding a date for the next meeting. At the same time, we will be seeking approval by Mayor Bill de Blasio for all of our non-monetary demands.

We are infuriated by the time this process has taken so far. We will be seeking, at the next formal meeting, to separate the monetary from the non-monetary demands. It will be interesting to hear Bob Linn's response.

GENERAL MEMBERSHIP MEETING. Mark your calendar for the September general membership meeting, which will take place on Thursday, September 24, 2015 at 6:15pm. The meeting will be held in the union office on 23rd Street. Pizza will be available before the meeting. You can download a flier for the meeting to remind yourself of the date, time and location by clicking this link.

LABOR DAY PARADE. We invite you join the OSA contingent on the march in the 2015 Labor Day Parade, to be held this year on Saturday, September 12, 2015. Assembly time will be 10:30 on West 45th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues. Mark your calendars and download the labor day parade flier and post it at your workplace, and share it with friends and colleagues and family. You are invited to bring friends and family. T shirts and hats to all who march. It's a great day and it's fun and it's important to show that the strength of the labor movement is significant in New York City.