News From OSA - June, 2001
Now it gets interesting. OSA's negotiating team met with the City on 5/15/01. It is our intention to now negotiate the economic package that will cover our members for the period 4/1/00 thru 6/30/02. Negotiations are "odd" this time around.
Normally, one negotiates three sorts of contracts in New York City. The "City Wide" negotiations cover generally non-economic issues that apply to all civilian city employees. "Coalition Bargaining," under the leadership of DC37 sets the economic package generally in place. Finally, "Local Unit" bargaining thereafter deals with non-economic demands that are specific to the member of our particular local union.
As members are aware, there was no "coalition bargaining" this time around. Instead, there was "coordinated bargaining," but the results are turning out to be essentially similar to other years.
The Police and Teachers' Unions have been unable to get a reasonable offer out of the Mayor and both groups are seeking help from the Public Employee Relations Board (PERB).
DC 37, on the other hand, has now received an offer that they have voted to accept. The offer is for a 4% raise the first year (4/1/00 to 3/31/01 for most OSA members), a compounded second 4% raise the second year and 1% for equity. (OSA historically has used the equity monies to create our longevity additions to salary.) The raise does beat the rate of inflation over the past twelve months, and that is a significant measure of success in negotiations. The deal is not as good as it may first appear, however, since the contract is for 27 months and not for two years, and the equity part is set for the end of the contract.
Our own negotiations may not be altogether easy for a few reasons. First, our Administrative Staff Analyst members were not yet members on 4/1/00. The Mayor has not yet announced the managerial raises, but we would expect that he will do so soon. We would hope that our newly covered brothers and sisters will not be excluded for any reason.
Second, our newly unionized Supervising Systems Analysts only became a part of the union a short time before the Administrative Staff Analysts. If the City is using the head count data for 12/31/99 as the base number to use in computation of equity amounts, they will have to use that number to judge the costs of any usage of the equity monies as well. Off the record, we have been notified that the City will not have a problem with our interpretation.
Third, our Transit Authority members are due a larger raise than the rest of us because their contract for 1995-2000 has not yet been settled. They did get the 3%, 3% and 4.75% increases of that contract, but no longevity at all. We believe they are due the same 1.37% equity package as the rest of us received, not a penny less.
Finally, in the rush to get the money, non-economic items unique to local unit bargaining have been somewhat ignored. OSA did raise these issues on May 15th.
We have a strong desire to establish a career path for our HHC Systems Analysts and Health Care Planning Analysts, and for all of our permanent but non-competitive members. We are also eager to discuss the possibility of unpaid sabbatical leave and even for a change of name for one of our covered titles. Our newest group of unionized members are, as the City calls them, the Administrative Staff Analysts (Non Managerial). We want the parentheses changed. The proper term is Administrative Staff Analyst (Represented/OSA).
Wait...there's still more. Members have the right to submit any demands, and using our past practice, OSA tends to include any demand that is not self-defeating nor in conflict with our other demands. Don't, please, waste time sending us economic demands since the wage pattern is probably set for us already and now we argue only details. If you want to submit demands, either use the printed form you received in your mailing of this edition of News From OSA or simply write your non-economic demands on a sheet of paper. Print your name, Social Security number, office phone, agency and title at the top of the sheet. Title the sheet "Non Economic Demands for 4/00-6/02 OSA Contract" and return it to the union office by June 15, 2001.
"PICA-BOO!" OSA's leadership has had more than a glimpse of the new "PICA" drug card before it arrives. In fact, we have even had a small role in helping to create it. (See the minutes of the MLC Steering Committee meeting on May 10th below.)
The PICA card, due on July 1st (if it arrives on time) will soon cover 850,000 persons (employees, retirees and family members) for four categories of drug Psychotropic, Injectible, Chemotherapeutic and Asthma.
Our own role goes back (two years) to OSA's protest over GHI's bungled implementation of a required prescription drug mail-order program. As a result of OSA's efforts at that time, a dozen unions formed the "Easy Rider" coalition and OSA was given a seat on the Municipal Labor Committee's Technical Health Subcommittee.
The MLC "Techies" work closely with the City Office of Labor Relations. Together, they negotiate contracts with GHI, HIP and a variety of other health plans provided for City employees.
As soon as Randy Weingarten had negotiated the recent improvements in health benefits for the MLC, it became the task of the "Techies" to work with OLR to implement the agreement. Thereafter, the OSA representative was detailed to be one of at first four, and later only three labor members on the "drug carve out" subcommittee.
Why us? We were asked to fill one of the three voting committee positions, but not because OSA is particularly knowledgeable in the area. In fact, since the OSA Welfare Fund does not cover prescription drugs, OSA's representative is probably the least knowledgeable of all the possible appointees.
OSA, however, was noted for having responded both sharply and effectively the last time a vendor of drug benefits messed up the implementation of a program. Also, OSA did not have a "horse" in this race.
According to the Comptroller's report on union welfare funds, there are about 150 City union welfare funds covering municipal employees and, of these, only a dozen do not offer a prescription drug benefit. All the ones that do have a drug card or plan, also use a "PBM" (Prescription Benefits Manager) to run the program. The reality is that the PICA drug card will have to be managed by a "PBM." Since OSA has no long-term relationship with any of the competing firms, our interest in the program being carried out smoothly and effectively would not be influenced by any prior loyalty to any of the competing firms.
As matters turned out, all of the labor and City representatives agreed. Out of about a dozen firms responding to the request-for-proposals, National Prescription Administrators was selected. NPA already covers 70% or more of the 850,000 persons due coverage. NPA provides a "PBM" service for the UFT and DC37 and many other unions.
The runner up was Merck Medco, which also covers huge numbers of City employees through their union drug plans (for example SSEU Local 371) or through their drug rider (example, the GHI drug rider). Unfortunately, Merck's presentation was somewhat unconvincing and we feared a repeat of the problems that their implementation caused two summers back.
If all goes well, 50,000 "PICA" drug cards will be issued by NPA to arrive shortly before 7/1/01. There is no need to issue cards to all persons covered since those already covered by NPA through their union plans will not need a second card.
We at OSA, however, will receive those cards. We should bring the card to the pharmacy whenever filling a prescription that falls into any of the PICA categories. If we are in doubt about the category of the drug prescribed, bring the card.
The possibilities of the implementation going wrong are scary. Everyone who needs a prescription is unlikely to appreciate any glitch in the new process of getting their medicine. A set of hopefully clear instructions are now being written and a Q&A is already in draft form thanks to the UFT representative. Once the program is in place and running, we will be better off.
There will be a small saving to all of us now burdened with paying for a drug rider on our basic health plan. We should not overly rejoice over this tiny remission of upward spiraling drug costs. If drugs continue to increase in price by 20% a year, this year's small decrease will be easily offset by next year's large increase.
More significantly, our union may have been in at the start of what may eventually evolve into an MLC drug card that will replace all other coverage for municipal workers. Currently, many unions that have welfare funds offering drug plans are running their plans "on fumes," without meaningful reserves. As fast as dollars are added through contracts, drug costs rise to absorb any increase obtained and even more is needed. The result is a sharply reduced desire by the unions to be involved with providing drug coverage. This is occurring at a time when the largest possible purchasing group begins to make ever more sense.
The MLC Technicals are interesting people. At one point Theresa (from the Firefighters' Union) asked Tony (from the Fire Officers' Union) why retirees over sixty-five years of age must join Medicare. Tony (who started work as a firefighter in 1947) began his answer with, "In 1966, when we were establishing a uniform health coverage for all City employees, Medicare was also getting started and it was agreed that..." In depth knowledge of such municipal history is so rare it is precious.
We got a wee bit back. This summer, probably in mid-July, members enrolled in a health plan will receive a $125 credit on their paycheck. The amount comes from last year's Health bargaining and is considered non-taxable since it is meant to reimburse (partially) for drug rider costs already paid. If the IRS details confuse you, just remember that an exact $125 more is supposed to arrive in your paycheck, probably in July or early August. If, on the other hand, you happened to be covered solely by your spouse's health plan, you will not get the extra $125 this summer, but neither are you stuck paying the "rider" costs in the first place.
The Ten Thousand Dollar Questions. . . are due to be asked on June 9th. On that day, about two thousand candidates for Associate Staff Analyst will be taking their exam for promotion.
OSA's lengthy course is complete and thanks are due to the staffers who worked long hours of overtime week after week, to the volunteers from the Executive Board who helped at registration and course administration, to the teachers who willingly shared their knowledge and personal experiences and most of all to Sheila Gorsky, OSA's Executive Director, and Marzie Eisenberg, OSA's Administrative Director, who made it all look easy.
It was not easy. It was well done and we, as a union, have reason to be deeply grateful to those who made it so. Good luck, now, to all of our brothers and sisters taking the exam.
A recent article in The Chief about the training course appears below.
Pension...oops. An error was made in our last mailing and, as usual, was caught by many of our members.
The error concerned the "buy back" rules for Tier 1 which do require that buy back of prior service is charged at the members current salary. This is true to Tier 1 members, but not for Tier IV. Since all new employees now join Tier IV, this was a notable mistake of the sort OSA does not usually make. Tier IV members can buy back prior service years at a cost based on a percentage of the earnings of those earlier years.
Two further points. First, it's a good union when every error is caught by a dozen or more members who call the union to correct the error. Second, every one of those knowledgeable members who did call agreed with the thrust of the article that all of us should belong to the pension program. They are right. Members can only lose by not joining the pension system as soon as possible.
OSA General Membership Meeting. The next general membership meeting of the union is Thursday, June 14, 2001 at the union office, 220 East 23rd Street, Suite 707, NYC from 7-9PM.
We decided to delay our regularly scheduled May general membership meeting. Not only is collective bargaining now getting interesting, but also two thousand of our members are busy studying for the Associate Staff Analyst exam.
The May meeting, therefore, will be set for Thursday, June 14. Use of that date will allow comments on both the completed exam and the opening negotiations.
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Union Offers Prep Course: Analysts Ready For Tough Promotional
By Mark Daly
The Chief-Leader (New York, Friday, May 4, 2001)
To survive it, candidates must know statistics. And budgeting And how to supervise others and manage entire units of workers. Generally, they must know how to take complex problems in municipal administration and break them down into their simplest parts so that other people administrators, Commissioners, Mayors can decide how to solve them.
June 9 Exam
To make matters worse, the test has been significantly different each time it's been offered, which until recently was about once every 10 years.
This month, over 2,000 Staff Analysts from across all city agencies are preparing for the Associate Staff Analyst exam which will be held June 9, along with similar promotionals for Associate Education Analyst and Associate Transit Management Analyst.
Many of the city's analysts have been prepping since March in seminars held by their union, the Organization of Staff Analysts.
The seminars have attracted a substantial enrollment. The union estimated that out of 1,500 applicants for the test in February, 1,400 had signed up in March to attend a session.
The applicant pool has since grown to 2,100, the Department of Citywide Administrative Services reported last week, because of late applications from Staff Analysts who were permanently appointed after the filing deadline. Applications from newly permanent Staff Analysts will be accepted up until the day before the test.
Last week, 75 people attended an evening session of OSA's nine-week course that focused on principles of management. The session took place in a wood-paneled auditorium of the Health Department at 125 Worth St. Another session, on statistics, was held the same night at OSA's headquarters on East 23rd St.
Early arrivals busied themselves by reading through packet of photocopies on "Total Quality Management" and other business trends, which OSA staffers were handing out at a registration table.
Rosemarie Moore, a Staff Analyst for the Police Department who was sitting in an aisle seat, admitted feeling a little overwhelmed. "Every single week, it's a different topic" she said of the seminars, "The test is so broad. We don't all work in the areas it covers."
Management was one of the topics she was looking to bone up on, Ms. Moore said, along with earlier classes on budgeting. Her own job in the NYPD's quality assurance unit is "statistical work," she said, "I don't know about budgets."
A few seats down the aisle sat August Abbondanza, a Budget Officer for the Human Resources Administration. Coincidentally, the first prep session he was able to attend in March was about statistics.
Reminder of College
"My thing is spreadsheets. I monitor 200 or so contracts for Facilities Management. The last time I took a statistics class was in college 27 years ago!" Mr. Abbondanza said with a laugh. "But I sat down the other night to work through some of the questions and it all started to come back."
He was approaching his studying with the methodical planning of a medical student. "The brain can't retain information for very long. I figure I'll start now, about five weeks before the exam," Mr. Abbondanza explained. "I want to put all the materials in a big binder and start underlining and highlighting."
Staff Analysts at the entry level receive a maximum salary of about $49,600 a year. The Associate Staff Analyst title starts at $47,011 and pays up to $65,227 annually which basically explained Mr. Abbondanza's interest in the test, he said.
Money wasn't the only draw, however. Another participant, Marlene Probherbs said she was already making an administrator's salary as the Director for Human Resources in the Department of Juvenile Justice.
In civil service terms, however, she still held the title of Staff Analyst, and so she was taking the promotional exam to gain a higher toehold in the city tenure system.
The breadth of the Associate Staff Analyst test mirrors the variation m the duties of the Staff Analysts who take it, according to Robert Croghan, president of the Organization of Staff Analysts.
"We do everything," Mr. Croghan said, "from contract proposals to quality control, to reports like the Mayor's Management Report, to designing new facilities and deciding how many people will be needed there. We're hired as technicians, as very knowledgeable people who know everything you must know to manage the city."
A Bit Too Flexible
The plasticity of the title has apparently perplexed even the city's test-makers. In 1995, the last time the test was held, there were three separate exams for budget, personnel and organizational analyst jobs. The test before that began in 1983, but the list was established many years later for reasons that are now hazy in the memory of DCAS administrators. "Some people here think there were multiple test sessions for different parts of the exam," the agency's spokeswoman said,
The curveball thrown by the city for this year's test was its announcement last month that applicants would receive a "reference booklet" in the mail by May 19 that they must bring to the exam.
Sheila Gorsky, the OSA's executive director, guessed the booklet would contain background information on a fictional city agency that the test-takers would be asked to make decisions for during the test.
In her view, teaching to the test really isn't the point. "We call them training sessions, because we are training the city workforce," Ms. Gorsky said. "Even if they fail the test, they will be the best analysts in New York."
A Test For Instructors
The scope of the test poses a challenge for the teachers hired by the OSA, said Lucy Sacks, a retired administrator from the Administration for Children's Services, who led the Worth St. session.
She and the union "took general principles of supervision and management' and boiled them down, Ms. Sacks told the group as the three hour session began. "Let's hope we guessed right."
The hardest part about the test, Ms. Sacks announced, is the need to discard all real world knowledge. "I know people who fail the test because they answer based on their experience" of how their agency really operates, she said. "You have to go by the book, even if it's not your experience."
The session began with Ms. Sacks defining the difference between supervision and management. She used a sketch of an agency staffing chart to give some pointers on how to distinguish a "line" employee from a "staff" one.
She got as far as her review of the Psych 101 staple, Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of human needs before the real world intruded on her lesson plan. Pointing to the bottom layer of Mr. Maslow's pyramid, Ms. Sacks asked the group of potential supervisors what they thought was every employee's underlying, fundamental need. "Money," a voice piped up from the front of the crowd. A Budget Analyst, Ms. Sacks guessed.
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MLC Steering Committee Special Meeting Regarding the Implementation of the Negotiated Drug Carve Out
MAY 10, 2001
MEMBERS PRESENT: Jack Friedman, Kevin Gallagher, Veronica Montgomery-Costa, Randi Weingarten
OTHERS PRESENT: Allen Brawer, Program Planners, Theresa Carapella, UFA, Willie Chang, DC 37, Harriet Cooper, NYSNA, Robert Croghan, OSA, Anne Downes, L. 372, 37, Jeff Goldstein, UFT, Jack Healy, DEA, Paul Jurgenson, L. 237, William Kwasnicki, COBA, Nicholas Mancuso, L. 237, Antonio Morelli, Sup. Police, Arthur Pepper, UFT, Sharon Robertson, DEA, Carmine Russo, PBA, Abe Steinberg, DC 37, Dennis Sullivan, DC 37, Clarissa G. Weiss, PSC/CUNY, Roslyn Yasser, DC 37, Mohamed Yousef, PSC/CUNY
Randi Weingarten called the meeting to order and stated that the sole purpose of this meeting is to discuss the implementation of the negotiated drug carve out. Roslyn Yasser reminded the committee that a major part of the health negotiations was to unburden the welfare funds by shifting some of the drug cost now in our welfare fund plan into a new basic plan (the "drug carve out"). The four separate drug classifications are asthma, chemotherapy (adjunctive and antiemetics), injectibles and psychotropic. We have realized that we undertook a difficult process. The carriers cannot do it. In addition, all of us handle these things differently. Once it became clear that the carriers couldn't do this, we went out with an RFP soliciting for a central PBM. We have an obligation to do this as of July 1st, which doesn't give us much time to implement. Ms. Yasser brought to the Steering Committee the Technical Committee's recommendation and asked it to accept the recommendation. Arthur Pepper reported that there is a 45 day implementation, May 15th to July 1st. The Technical Committee's biggest issue was to avoid disruption of services to the members. Two options were explored. The first option was a central PBM. The second option was an addendum to the RFP, whereby if you have an PBM, you continue to use that PBM. However, the problems with the latter include different rates of reimbursement and eligibility. In addition, the MLC Health Committee would have to be audited and every one of our funds would have to be audited as well. Lastly, a pharmacist may have a contract with a different drug PBM and may not receive the dispensing fee. With respect to option one, the Technical Committee narrowed it down to five finalists out of the 8 bids received. There is only one PBM that could do it in 45 days and that is NPA, which currently covers 700,000 and those people would be able to use their existing cards. It costs $0.30 to make up a card. If you take 850,000 people multiplied by $0.30 (card cost) and $0.34 (postage), the expense would be $544,000 to the stabilization fund. We would audit this at the end of the year. The Technical Committee is recommending option 1. The driving factor was the disruption of services to the least amount of members. Educational pieces will go out to every member in June, as well as pharmacies. Roslyn Yasser stated that there are two issues: 1) procedure for option l and 2) the recommendation to support the Technical Committee in terms of entering into negotiations with NPA. Ms. Yasser added that we have to come to a financial agreement, which has yet to be discussed.
Nicholas Mancuso stated that it was his understanding that the money out of the stabilization fund and Trust and Agency account was going to the welfare fund. Nicholas Mancuso expressed, concern about the utilization and also one vendor being in control. Whatever money is going to the members, Local 237 wants it directly. Ms. Weingarten responded that the monies isolated for welfare funds, people are getting. This is a separate issue which we voted on separately. We thought the MLC card would save the funds money. The $50 drug subsidy is different from these carve out drugs. Dennis Sullivan stated that there are two sections of the agreement: a) one time drug subsidy that gives the welfare fund $50 the first year and $75 the second year and b) a carve out for four separate drugs, i.e. asthma, chemotherapy, injectibles and psychotropic, that will no longer be the responsibility of any union's welfare fund. We carved out with the understanding that the cost will be paid for by the stabilization fund. It does not relate to each individual union. Nicholas Mancuso stated that the share or cost is not coming from the city it is coming out of the stabilization fund and the unions have a share in the stabilization fund. How are the unions getting a proportionate share? The Chair indicated that this meeting was to deal with the implementation of the drug carve out and these discussions were regarding policy. The MLC made a decision that these drugs would be carved out and paid by the stabilization fund. The MLC has an obligation to implement by July 1st We agreed to carve out these drugs because they are too expensive. The Chair suggested that in a year, the Technical Committee do an analysis to see if there is a disproportionate impact on the welfare funds. We cannot renegotiate these benefits now if we want our members to get these benefits on July 1st. Ms. Weingarten suggested that to ensure proper monitoring, we receive monthly reports from the vendor. Kevin Gallagher agreed that this needs to be monitored to see if it is disproportionate.
The Chair called the question if the implementation plan is sound enough, particularly in light of the July 1st deadline. A motion to authorize the Technical Committee to proceed to negotiate with a central PBM to implement the drug carve out was made, seconded and passed by all present with one exception. Nicholas Mancuso, Local 237, voted against the implementation plan.
Motion to adjourn.