News From OSA - March, 2015

Our union is normally busy handling grievances and disciplinary actions. We do the work well, although we seldom write about that aspect of union activity. We probably will write something about this in the near future.

Our union is also busy protecting our members’ health benefits, both through our Welfare Fund and also through our union’s active membership on the Municipal Labor Committee’s Health Technical Subcommittee.

One more task that occupies our time is that of organizing and bringing actions before both the Office of Collective Bargaining (OCB) and the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB).If we did not put effort into that task we would never have become a union, and had we not continued our effort in that direction, our original victory in 1992 would have been eroded greatly. Instead of growing, our membership would have shrunk ever smaller and smaller. To cite our experience with one title, as soon as we obtained the right to represent Staff and Associate Staff Analysts, the city began to appoint less of them and more Administrative Analysts, Managerial Level I. As soon as we began to cover Administrative Staff Analysts Level I, the City began hiring less Level I’s and began hiring more Level II’s and III’s.

Now that we provide due process and collective bargaining for Administrative Analysts Levels II and III, the City has begun to hire Administrative Analysts Level IV at the hilariously low salary of $70,000 per year. No matter. We will now file for Level IV and, based upon their duties and their often absurdly low salaries, we will win. Even so, it does keep us busy.

In addition to grievances, health benefits and organizing, our union also negotiates contracts and helps prepare our members for civil service exams. Those last two tasks are not always in process because sometimes there are no exams, and very little or no negotiations. At present, of course, there are both multiple exams going forward plus negotiations for a number of distinct contracts.

Below, we will discuss our progress on both exams and negotiations, but first we will discuss a very nice action being taken by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH).

EBOLA. The Ebola epidemic is still alive in West Africa. So long as active cases continue to occur, there is tragedy there and potential danger for us here and everywhere else in the world. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) wants to stomp out the epidemic. In order to do so, the CDC reached out for help to our own Department of Health, seeking qualified professionals. DOHMH said yes.

The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene surveyed their staff, seeking volunteers willing to travel to Africa to assist in the fight. Many of our fellow civil servants did volunteer, but only those with the proper background and professional skills were accepted.

The terms are rough. No one really expects a 35-hour work week to be guaranteed, nor is either air-conditioning or a comfortable work environment expected. As you would expect, the unions representing the volunteers are concerned on their members’ behalf. The lead union (sending probably the most volunteers) is the Doctor’s Council, now led by Dr. Frank Proscia.

That union arranged a conference call between all of the unions who had members due to go on this mission. We discussed details that the CDC and DOHMH might have overlooked. Our members’ salaries would be paid by the city while they were on this leave of absence. Pension credit would continue to accrue, as would vacation and sick leave. Health coverage would be handled by the CDC during the assignment and by our own health plans on re-arrival back in the city.

One item unique to OSA was brought up. We noted that the upcoming promotional exam to Administrative Staff Analyst was a rare event, and due for this Summer. Since one of our members was mentioned as being likely to be sent, we needed to know that her opportunity to take the exam would not be lost due to her actions on behalf of her city.

>We did receive some assurances and, potentially, the dates of foreign assignments and the exam will not conflict. We will go further to ensure our member does not lose out for doing good.

The member involved is Associate Staff Analyst Fatos Kaba of our correctional health unit. It is a matter of pride to the Organization of Staff Analysts that the CDC is considering one of us for this effort. We are also very proud that one of our sisters is both so brave and so dedicated to the health of others that she is willing to risk her own health for the rest of us.

EXAMS. The first part of each of the upcoming analyst exams is an experience and education exam. All candidates must successfully complete that qualifier before being allowed to take the actual competitive exams.

OSA, having been formed originally by staff of the Department of Personnel, has a lot of knowledge of arcane subjects such as a “Notice of Examination” and an “E&E exam.” In fact, we have spent years, first as an organization and later as a union, guiding our members past the complexity and often dangerous (to your career) details of both of these.

We even have hard statistics on how well we help our members with N.O.E.’s and E&E exams.During the administration of David Dinkins, we had to prepare our members for an “E&E examination for score”. In other words, the E&E was the only test.

We did well. Of 2,600 members taking the exam who took our training, 1,900 scored a 100% grade. We then assisted 600 of those who scored below 100% with their appeal to the Committee of Manifest Error. Of those helped, 400 more were then scored at 100%. We went one step further and aided as many of those still remaining below 100% who appealed to the Civil Service Commission. A final 100 (or a bit more) were granted a final score of 100%.

So, we had helped 2,400 of our 2,600 members score a perfect grade. Also, most of those who did not score a 100% did so because they did not believe the union when we warned them that scoring an 80% or a 90% on this particular exam was not good enough. We really do know how to read a Notice of Examination and how to fill out and Education and Experience exam.

On the occasion of the analyst exams of this year, there were a few novelties. First, we had more analyst exams at once than ever before. Then, for the first time, huge numbers of our members were asked to file their E&E on a computer.

We handled the first novelty by scheduling a lot of evenings and weekends and by training a lot of instructors to assist each candidate with their papers. This part went off well, and the wait time for service was generally short.

Of about 1,200 members assisted, we got exactly two complaints thereafter, so the quality control aspect was, if not perfect, close to it.

The second novelty, the use of computer filing, was far more problematic for those who had not come to the union to be trained in advance. We began to get complaints and heard cries for help from the first day the filing opened. We do not know how many fully qualified candidates were disqualified, but we are sure that the number is large.

We will be talking to DCAS over the next short period, and we will be seeking some kind of reopener for those who were marked unqualified. Meanwhile, anyone who fails to appeal their disqualification is making the wrong choice.

The training classes for the actual competitive exam began immediately upon the close of the filing period. A vast amount of study material was posted on our website, and classroom instruction is being provided for all who chose to register. There is also an option to purchase instructional DVDs and to do the classroom work at home.

Note: this does mean the union office will not be available for the March general membership meeting. We will meet instead at 125 Worth Street, in the 2nd Floor Auditorium. It is a really nice room, but refreshments are prohibited. (Darn it.)

NEGOTIATIONS. Negotiations are going well, but slowly. We have reached the point where we are ready to sign off on our School Safety and Traffic Enforcement contracts as soon as the city agrees to one more point. That unit is not affected by many of our demands in the main union contract. As high-level officers, they would not be granted the alternative work schedule. Also, their agency has historically been reasonable, or even generous, in times of extended illness or family problems, so there is no perceived need for furloughs. Finally, all of our members of that unit receive the proper longevity payments.

The one sticking point is payment of retroactive monies due to officers who retired after serving during the period covered by the 4% and 4% raises. Just like the teachers covered by the UFT, our members are due that retroactive pay. It does appear that the retired UFT teachers will get every penny due to them. We will not accept less for our members. If the City is reasonable on that issue of really tiny cost but huge justice, we will be completed soon.

Negotiations are also going well on our main contract. The City, at the last session, agreed to investigate setting up a pilot project at a few agencies to encourage use of Alternative Work Schedules. We never got that far with either Giuliani or Bloomberg. This is hopeful.

Negotiations are, however, going slowly. We have brought up matters above and beyond the bare bones financial package of the pattern, and we expected, from the start, that this would delay payment of our retroactive raises. The key word here is retroactive. Mayor Bloomberg, in his last term, offered us raises (offset by givebacks, to be sure) but no retroactivity. We chose to not negotiate with him at all. Mayor de Blasio embraced the concept of retroactive pay increases immediately upon arriving in office. As a result, negotiations are proceeding.

Some members would prefer for the union to settle quickly without working out details, or getting benefits for anyone other than themselves, but OSA is a union and we believe we must fight for all of our members.

HISTORY. Some members were equally impatient with the union in 2007. That year the negotiating team, after completing the contract for raises of 2% and 5%, was told we would have to give up a 1% of productivity raise due to us in order to get our new raises.

We broke off negotiations at that time, and took the matter to the Office of Collective Bargaining. We claimed the City was bargaining in bad faith.

The administrative process went on through the Spring, Summer, and Fall as well. We did not know when the process would play out, but we were convinced that we would win. Finally the city, knowing we had truth on our side and would win “in court”, caved in and offered to double our due 1% increases in longevity payments. They alleged they had made a small (100% off) error in their original calculations. We recognized an attempt at face saving by the Bloomberg administration for what it was, but we did not care.

Just around the winter holidays the bargaining team recommended acceptance of the increased city offer and, no surprise, it was accepted by a vote of our membership. We had got the 1%.

Winning victories because the union knows when to fight and when not to is a part of doing our job as well as possible.

A large part of our current distress comes from the fact that the city is not in as much of a hurry as we are. As a result, we are often kept waiting for meetings, which is frustrating. In spite of that, our goal is and will remain to obtain a good and fair contract.

GENERAL MEMBERSHIP MEETING. PLEASE NOTE. This month’s General Membership meeting will be held in an alternate location, the 2nd Floor Auditorium at 125 Worth Street on THURSDAY, March 26th at 6:15PM. We are deviating from our usual location because the union hall is occupied every night of the week with training classes for the analyst series exams.We hope to see you at Worth Street. You can download a flier for the meeting to remind yourself of the date, time and location by clicking this link.