News From OSA - March 2010

The Exams. On the 19th, 20th, and 21st of February 2010, the Analyst exams were held. On Friday the 19th, our brothers and sisters who work at DCAS took the exam in order to free them to oversee administration of the exam on Saturday.

On Saturday, at ten different schools, nearly 8,000 candidates took one or more exams. There were six exams but only one test. Credit is due to the Personnel branch of DCAS for designing a single test to cover multiple titles.

In prior years, candidates seeking promotion were sometimes required to take separate tests, one after another, for various Analyst specialties such as "Budget," "Personnel" and "Organizational Research." In that earlier situation, most candidates filed for all three specialties. This was wise since questions could be easier on one specialty than another and no candidate could know in advance which test would be easier. Also, it was inevitable that some resulting lists would be "shorter" for one specialty than another and that could affect how soon a candidate would be appointed. On the other hand, those multiple exams started early and were not finished by nightfall.

This year, the examiners at Personnel came up with one hundred questions on a single test. If you were taking only the Staff Analyst or the Education Analyst exams, you would complete 60 "core" questions plus 20 specific to the level for which you were testing. If you were taking only the Associate level exams (Staff or Education), you took the 60 "core" questions plus 20 different questions specific to that level.

If you were a glutton for punishment and filed for the Staff, Ed, Associate Staff and Associate Ed Analyst exams, you had to answer 100 questions: sixty core questions, twenty questions for the lower level Analyst jobs and twenty more for the higher level jobs. Also, naturally, the questions were the same for the two promotional exams as they were for the open competitive exams. (If a candidate passes both the Open Competitive and the Promotional Associate Staff Analyst exam, the grades on the two exams will differ. The promotional exam marking system takes into account a candidate’s length of permanent class service with the City, the open competitive does not.)

The use of a single test for up to six exams was an elegant solution that avoided extra hours of suffering for thousands of candidates.

The Item Analysis. The data sheet you can download at this link is fairly self explanatory. A reasonable assumption is that the 80 questions for Staff were worth 1.25% each as were the 80 questions for Associate. Passing is normally 70%, but Personnel can add points if too few pass the exam.

Next will come the tentative key, five weeks after the exam, then the exam review for those who requested to review and the appeals that follow the reviews. The final key and an established list is months away.

Letters. We had asked members to send us comments about the exam and over two dozen had arrived by the time of this writing. Members were generally more positive about this year’s exam administration than for earlier exams, but there were harsh critiques as well.

The single most upsetting factor was time. Many candidates found the "dense" reading hard to absorb in the time allowed. Others were disadvantaged by the lack of a clock in their classroom and still others had their testing disrupted by monitor errors, incorrect announcements and a variety of unique and damaging incidents.

In some cases our members were only slightly inconvenienced, but there were incidents that made it hard or even impossible for a candidate to succeed. OSA not only accumulates these letters and uses them for a report to DCAS, but we also bring up individual cases where the candidate, through no fault of his or her own, was denied a chance to pass the exam.

In one case, DCAS sent a candidate to the wrong school where only one exam was given, although the candidate had filed for two. Simply refunding the application fee will not be sufficient remedy. A make-up exam is needed.

On the topic of cell phones, our members’ opinions are split. Some complained bitterly over loss of access to their own cell phones while others complained of the cell phone calls of other candidates or the monitor’s use of cell phones disrupting their exams.

The desks were usually too small, the materials hard to manage in the space provided, some rooms were too hot, some too cold. Some candidates were given an edge, inadvertently by DCAS, due to the lack of properly trained monitors and others were disadvantaged.

On the other hand, the weather was better than expected and candidates at most sites were allowed in before the exam to keep warm. Most sites kept to the schedule although a couple of sites were late getting started. The test itself was frequently called fair by candidates leaving the exam site. Overall, even with all the critiques, the 2010 Analyst exams ran better than many earlier years’ exams.

Oops. The education and experience training sessions went well, the classroom training was comfortable and well organized, and over 8000 "care packages" were properly assembled and distributed at 18 Washington Street on Friday the 19th and at ten public schools on Saturday the 20th.

Then oops… we missed Sunday the 21st entirely when the Sabbath observers and the special needs candidates had to take the exams with no help from an OSA green envelope containing candy and calculator. Our error was to assume those candidates had been tested Friday morning, but we should have known better.

I wish to thank the volunteers and executive board members who set aside that weekend to be there for the test takers and to thank as well, many of our brothers and sisters of DCAS whose acts of individual kindness helped candidates get through a difficult experience.

Negotiations and Layoffs. The number of OSA members affected by layoffs is not a large number so far, but each one is very painful for the family concerned and often emotionally devastating to the worker.

Since the last mailing, one more member (Department of Finance) was laid off and five more (Off Track Betting) are under threat. The City and the State predict far worse to come, but the City’s revenues are better than expected. Mayor Bloomberg has a three billion dollar surplus for this fiscal year.

At present the UFT is already deep into negotiations and DC37 is now starting. OSA will be due "up to bat" early in the Fall. The UFT was expecting to be offered the same pattern as was offered to DC37 for 3/3/08 to 3/2/10. The DC37 agreement was an annual four percent raise plus a small amount for "equity." After DC37 settled, OSA and a score of other locals settled for the same pattern, but the City is not offering the UFT the same offer. Instead, the City is claiming the "UFT pattern" is two percent a year.

We expect negotiations to be very difficult this year partially due to the recession and partially because we expect the monied interests in New York City to use the recession as an excuse for seeking to lower the cost of us.

Our Mayor created his own imaginary city fiscal crisis in 2004 in order to squeeze $600 million in recurring give backs out of City employees. He threatened layoffs if we did not give him the money. The unions refused to agree to the permanent givebacks so he laid off thousands of provisional employees. We know from that exercise that Mayor Bloomberg can lay off City workers without remorse, even as he hires new workers to replace the old.

Mayor Bloomberg does not want less workers paid for by the government. He does want the government workers to be paid less for their work. He uses the threat and practice of layoffs to frighten us. His tactic has not worked in the past nor does it endear him to us. Meanwhile, as we await the news from the bargaining table, the Mayor’s allies in the media are beginning their chorus of support for any evil he metes out to us for our failure to cave in to his demands.

Class Warfare Declared. We do have, in New York City, a number of organizations funded by rich folks, dedicated to lowering the cost of government for the rich. Our favorite is the Citizens Budget Commission. The slick "Manhattan Institute" can sometimes fool you for a moment, but the CBC never even tries. They propose solutions that would cause obvious pain to us and blithely describe those solutions as painless.

The Citizens Budget Commission has again come up with painless ways of lowering the cost of New York City government. Founded by John D. Rockefeller Jr. in 1932, the goal of the corporate sponsored CBC is to lower the cost to the corporations of running the city government. The CBC is actually in favor of government services as needed. They just don’t think they should have to pay for them. In line with their approach is the recent suggestions offered by the CBC in the New York Daily News. You can download a copy by clicking this link.

Their Suggestions Are... If you would start to pay 10 to 50% of your health insurance costs, work five hours a week more for no extra pay, agree to a worsened pension for those who come after you and forgo paid overtime, the CBC and their corporate rich folks would be deeply gratified.

The CBC would also like to change the rules on police, firefighters, and teachers, but these suggestions are of relatively small value. As usual it is "we," the "other" civil servants who are being asked to lower our heads, tug our forelocks and help our masters out when they run short at the gaming tables.

We did not ask the government to invest our pension funds unwisely in the stock market nor did we ever get offered any share of the winnings when they occurred. If you are a real estate tycoon sipping your breakfast latte, while looking out your window down at Central Park, it may not cause you pain to learn that the park workers below are now working an extra hour per day for no wage at all. On the other hand, the park workers might disagree.

The beauty of the Citizens Budget Commission is that it wages obvious and open class warfare against us. We very much prefer open class warfare to the normal sneaky kind and so we welcome the regular Springtime proclamations of the CBC. The CBC harmlessly bashes us, the papers and media support them and the corporations fill the CBC coffers anew at the annual "black tie" party. This form of class warfare is far less violent then the cossacks charging the crowd or the erection of guillotines in Madison Square Park.

Since we favor civility, we favor the CBC and their pronouncements. We might otherwise tend to forget that there are economic classes in this country and that their interests do conflict. Thanks to the Citizens Budget Commission, this point is made anew each year and we are grateful for their openness. The CBC can make as good a case for class consciousness as Karl Marx ever did. The CBC serves another purpose. Since they are often snugly linked to City Hall, they sometimes telegraph in advance the Mayors demands. Enclosed you will find the CBC wish list for 2010. Please note the last paragraph. The first sentence sounds unlikely.

General Membership Meeting. The next general membership meeting will be held on March 25, 2010 at the union office at 220 East 23rd St, Suite 707, between Second and Third Avenues. You may download a flyer here to remind you of the date and time of the meeting or to post at your location.