News From OSA - May, 2002
Transit. After three years of the toughest negotiations ever experienced by OSA, we believe we have finally concluded a contract with the TA. We will be certain only after the MTA Board has signed off at the end of this month, but we have resolved the major problems separating our positions.
There will be more detail provided in the next mailing, but the improved health benefits, continued scholarships and the long-awaited raises are achieved. There is also an optional vacation "cash in" for those with large annual leave balances, their first ever grievance coverage, improved due process in disciplinary or layoff situations, and a host of beneficial details.
OSA has reason to be proud of our steadfast activists at TA. If our full negotiating team of over a score of representatives from locations had not convinced their brothers and sisters to hang tough, we could never have done so well.
Health Costs. Health benefit costs are rising and falling and will rise again, sharply (on July 1st) for those of our members covered by some health plans.
Members covered by Aetna, Cigna, Health Net, Vytra, Empire (non-TA), HIP Prime POS and GHI HMO had their rates increased more dramatically than usual last year. These same rates were lowered, again dramatically, as of 4/1/02.
The cause of this roller coaster effect was our recently departed Mayor's decision to arbitrarily decide how much the City should pay for the inflation of health costs that are affecting our nation. The State Insurance Department had judged carefully and decided, over a year ago, that HIP HMO basic required a nearly 12% increase to stay afloat. City contributions to all of our health plans are linked to the HIP HMO rate.
The Mayor, at the time, decided to give HIP and all the others plans a 4% increase, apparently based upon his desire to create a huge problem for his successors.
HIP and the Municipal Labor Committee immediately went to court. Meanwhile, awaiting the results, as of 7/1/01 over a dozen plans steeply raised their costs to City employees. HIP and GHI/CBP had sufficient "stabilization" reserves not to do so at that time. Our new Mayor has taken a long look at what his predecessor had done and has made the correct decision to have the City return to honoring its contracts.
The City has now retroactively paid the correct rate to HIP and all of the health plans serving City employees. Unfortunately, the only easy way to right the wrong done to those members who were forced to overpay between 7/1/01 and 3/31/02 is to drop the cost of contributions for the next 3 months sufficiently to pay back the overpayments of the prior 9 months.
Then, on 7/1/02, the health carriers will again raise the rates, not only back to what they should have been for 7/1/01 - 6/30/02, but also adding any increased costs due for 7/1/02.
Those members who left one of the affected plans to join HIP HMO or GHI/CBP in the face of the original huge increase are, currently, the only losers. Some members did leave their prior plans as of 1/1/02 and thus missed the "refund" period. The Labor advocates are insisting the City did them wrong -- and the City is not arguing -- but no one has thus far been able to come up with a remedy.
Finally, the City's explanations to the affected persons have been less than fully informative, possibly due to embarrassment, so the unions are left to tell this odd story.
Health & Benefit Changes. Big changes in health benefits keep occurring. The right of a City employee to be covered for health benefits after 62 years of age and five years service with the City is no more. City employees still do have five-year vesting for retirement purposes -- and that is a good thing. Meanwhile, rather quietly, the Mayor on 12/17/01 sought and obtained City Council approval to require ten years of pension credited service before health coverage would be granted in old age. He signed the bill on 12/27/01.
Any new employee hired after 12/27/01 will now need to serve ten years within the pension system to obtain City health coverage in retirement. The City Council retained the five year health "vesting" rights for themselves, but that was no surprise. Term limits ensure that most Council members will not serve ten years.
Also, sometime soon, OSA members covered by the GHI prescription drug rider may be about to experience change. GHI used to farm out their drug benefit to Merck-Medco and may soon be using Express Scripts. Express Scripts, incidentally, recently acquired NPA, the provider of our PICA card. No one has yet told the unions or the subscribers what changes will result.
Stay tuned and by next month we will have obtained more information.
The Equity. No news at all is available on the 1% equity award still to be negotiated on our City, NYCHA, Board of Ed, HHC, and OTB contracts. Still, negotiations have resumed and progress is expected before the due date for payment in June. With luck, our uniformed Administrative School Safety and Traffic contract will also now make some progress.
Doin' The Right Thing. Friday May 10th, OSA Executive Director Sheila Gorsky had the pleasure of presenting awards to Human Resources Administration Commissioner Verna Eggleston and five staffers of HRA's personnel department. The union awards honored HRA for "doing the right thing" in administering the Associate Staff Analyst Promotional List. HRA, which employs the most analysts of any City agency, ran its hiring pools in a manner that ensured that both the spirit and the letter of the Civil Service Law were implemented.
The honors were presented at an HRA Chapter meeting attended by more than one hundred OSA members and colleagues. Awards went to Marie Gill, Mary Bacote, Marvia Simmons, Carolyn Harris and Judith Loewenstein for personifying HRA's core values of professionalism, accountability and integrity in the way they ran the pools. A page of photos from the event is available in PDF format by clicking here.
So then, why did we single out HRA for honors? Last year, most other agencies quickly and aggressively ‘called' the ASA list at their agency in order to appoint their ‘no cost' items. Those agencies subsequently "one-in-three'd" up to one third of the Staff Analysts on the list, labeling them considered-not-selected (CNS) with or without interviews or even notices to the candidates. As of now, some agencies have even refused to restore those Staff Analysts to the list for future consideration.
On the other hand, at HRA, out of a list of 188, less than 10% of those interviewed were CNS'd and HRA will restore these candidates to the list for future consideration. They will have another opportunity for promotion. Each and every candidate at HRA was given the opportunity to apply for an Associate Staff Analyst position. To HRA, a well-deserved thank you.
Whoopee! A headline on the front page of Crain's New York Business promised data on "The Largest Local Unions in New York City." A quick purchase and a turn to page 26 turned up the astonishing news that OSA is listed as the third fastest growing union in New York City.
Well. The reaction at the union office was "Aw shucks...we're all just doing what little we can, but it's awful nice of the folks at Crain's business weekly to take note of us."
Copies of the huge display chart relating union information will be available at this month's membership meeting, but members need not take it too seriously. The researchers surveyed 304 local unions, but we note that a number of unions clearly did not respond.
OSA is also listed as being the 18th largest union in New York City and while we may wish it were true, we are nowhere near that point at present.
It is true that we were founded by a dozen Personnel Examiners in 1970, and our current size does reflect a steady growth. It is also true that during the year measured by Crain's, we did go from 3,800 to 4,250 members, but we are still a small and friendly union at heart. OSA will not let its new found fame in a business weekly lead us into temptation. We will not seek to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange ("On the other hand...," said Mike Mackey, our Treasurer...).
LaborFilms. OSA's new labor film series continues in June with Human Resources on June 7th and Roger and Me on June 21st. A two-sided flyer is available by clicking front and backto post on your refrigerator or bulletin board. Each screening will take place on a Friday night starting at 7pm in Room 709 at the union office, 220 East 23rd Street (between 2nd and 3rd Avenues) and will be followed by an informal discussion on the issues raised by the film. Light refreshments will be available. This is your chance to have a little fun, discuss important labor issues, and meet your fellow unionists. Join us.
The series will take a hiatus for the summer and return in the fall with a screening of Salt of the Earth on September 20th. Also mark your calendars for screenings on October 4th and 18th, November 1st and 15th and December 6th. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org or check the OSA newsline regularly at (212) 330-8833 or the newsline page of the union's website: www.osaunion.org.
Job Security Enforced. When the Organization of Staff Analysts began to seek unionization for Administrative Analysts, there were a variety of benefits at stake for those analysts. Paid overtime is nicer than unpaid overtime and regular raises does beat relying on the whimsy of management (unless, always unless, you are part of the "in" crowd).
Still, very few Admin Analysts thought the union was bringing them any increase in job security, but as it turns out, we were. Our dedicated grievance staff have reported a neat victory.
At the change of administration on 1/1/02, a number of politically appointed staff were let go in almost every New York City agency. Most agencies had the good sense to exempt from "political" layoff any OSA member with two years of prior provisional service. Thus, we saved a number of jobs based on our reputation alone.
One agency, the Agency for Children's Services decided to test us. They moved to demote a provisional Admin Analyst based on their contention that since he had only recently become a member of the union, he was not protected.
"Nonsense," said our grievance reps. They pointed out that he was covered by our contract. We promised that if he was demoted, the agency would eventually be restoring him and issuing him back pay for his involuntary demotion.
Three months later, the answer is in from the Associate General Counsel of the Office of Labor Relations. We quote, "Provisional appointment began on May 17th, 1998, rather than on the date the Administrative Staff Analysts became members of the bargaining unit pursuant to a Board of Certification determination. Thus, he has contractual disciplinary rights."
The agency has notified us that he is being restored, and, at a guess, he will now be due $5,000 underpayment. Thanks are due to Hank Mandel, Shirley Gray, Tom Gorse and Ken Berman, each of whom did warn management not to proceed.
Early Out. OSA has received a copy of the law authorizing the early retirement incentive needed to close the year's budget gap. Click here to download a copy of (S7431). Final details will not be available until the City fashions its exact version of all the possibilities permitted by the bill.
Meanwhile, the key points noted are:
Papers requesting the incentive requirement can be filed as early as July 3rd.
The filing period itself can be from 30 to 90 days long.
The law allows government to delay the retirement date until as late as 3/31/03, but this is not expected in New York City.
There are two possibilities: 25/55 and 10/50. A member who has 25 or more years of service plus attainment of age 55 will probably be allowed the chance to retire, but a strange provision was written into the law. If the authorities insist your work is essential, they can deny your application, but you apparently have a right to an appeal of any arbitrary or capricious decision.
A member with ten years of service aged 50 or older may also be allowed early retirement, but this appears to be at management discretion. Thus many, but perhaps not all, of our members will have this option.
The standard offer is being made of a month's additional pension credit for each year of credited pension service.
Only persons in active service from 2/1/02 onwards are eligible. We assume active service includes paid sick or annual leave.
Persons retiring under the 25/55 provisions who belong to a tier that required a later retirement age (62, for example), but who are not yet at or beyond that age will lose the retirement bonus of one month per year. They will, however, not be hit with the normal five percent per year penalty on their early retirement.
Persons retiring under the 10/50 provisions will get the month per year bonus, but will have their pensions reduced by five percent pro-rated for each year they are below their plan's normal retirement age.
Members penalized under 25/55 can choose the penalty assigned to the 10/50 category if it benefits them, as it might in a very few rare cases. Terminal leave will be paid out in three equal portions spread over a 24-month period.
Copies of the actual law will be available at this month's membership meeting and are already available for downloading from this website by clicking here (S7431).
Also, a special session will be held at the union office on Tuesday, June 18th at 6pm for those members considering taking the Incentive. The session will feature Richard Guarino, OSA's chief pension expert. Please call George Morgan to reserve your space. (If you previously called and did not leave your name for our count, please call again.)
Life Insurance. Also you may wish to review a letter from the fund trustees offering an option to purchase life insurance. If you already have enough, please disregard. If you wish to increase your coverage, please complete the form. If you wish to buy for the first time, please call for your kit. If you are retiring, you may wish to now replace the insurance coverage that was provided automatically by the pension system during your years of active service, and to compensate for the reduction in coverage from the OSA Welfare Fund.
OSA General Membership Meeting. The next OSA general memberhip meeting is to be held on Thursday, May 30, 2002 at 6pm at the OSA Office - 220 East 23rd Street, Suite 709, New York City.