News - May 1998
Layoffs: Past And Present. Layoffs have affected our title series on three occasions. The great fiscal crisis during the times of Mayor Beame led to a virtual wipe-out of all serving provisional Staff and Associate Staff Analysts. The ranks of the Analyst series began again to be filled with persons appointed provisionally once Mayor Koch took office, but many of those laid off in the mid-1970s never returned to City service.
Our second bout occurred under Mayor Dinkins and led to 250 layoffs for Analysts out of over 3,000 employed in City service. OSA made a name for itself with the City, and the other unions, due to how our union responded to the layoffs.
The situation differed in the early 1990s from the first layoffs in the 1970s. OSA had been recognized as a bargaining agent for some Analysts in 1985 and was, by 1990, representative for about 650 Analysts. As a result, we had the right to bargain with the City over the layoffs.
We had been "lucky." We were only due to lose 38 of us. The non-represented Analysts had been hit much harder. The layoff of the 38, however, sparked a strong emotional reaction from OSA. OSA argued through the 30 day waiting period and for many weeks thereafter until we had success.
Furloughs/sabbaticals. We suggested voluntary one year furloughs (which we called sabbaticals) in lieu of lay-offs. The City asked for details. OSA proposed that any Analyst who so desired, be allowed to take a year off. The City would pay no salary nor health benefits for the year. The City could not be expected to hold a leave-taker's position open for a year. On return, if the old job was available, fine. If not, any Analyst position would do.
The union went further. Since the City appeared interested, OSA surveyed its members by mail and learned that 7% of our members would like a year off, immediately, even without pay, and a further 5% would like the opportunity but not for at least a year.
The City began to take OSA's proposal seriously and made an interesting counter-offer. If all of OSA's members would agree to a two day leave without pay, the City would save enough money to pay the salaries of all 38 laid-off workers for two months. Thereafter, negotiations would be completed on the sabbatical idea and possibly all would be saved.
OSA again returned to a mail ballot. The members voted overwhelmingly in favor of sacrificing two days pay to help our laid-off brothers and sisters. In the final analysis, we did not lose two days pay but only one. By the time negotiations surveys and mail ballots had been completed, the lay-offs had been in effect for a few months.
Analysts are well educated and often skilled workers. We do not tend to stay unemployed. In fact, 19 of the original 38 laid off workers were now employed at or above their prior salaries. Some had been forced to relocate for a job, but only 19 persons were left to return to Analyst jobs.
Our idea, the one year unpaid furlough, never did enter our contract, but neither did the City terminate many of those who we had brought back. With one exception, all who chose to stay past the second month were allowed to do so and most of them are now permanent Associate Staff Analysts.
Our idea, however, did influence both the City and DC37. First, voluntary furloughs were resorted to by a few locals under Dinkins (after our example). Later, when Giuliani moved to "downsize" the civilian work force in government, severance and buyouts replaced lay-offs for the first four years.
The name we made for ourselves, as a union, did not result from coming up with a clever idea. Ideas are not all that rare. The small world of Labor Relations in New York City was impressed by the 600 analysts who voted to sacrifice their own pay to help their fellow members.
Solidarity is a word often used in the field of labor. When there is a genuine feeling of solidarity within a group, and an injury to one is an injury to all, that group has strength. OSA came out of the Dinkins layoffs with a renewed feeling of its own internal strength and cohesiveness.
The 1998 Layoffs Began On March 18, 1998. On that day, we were informed by a telephone call from the Office of Labor Relations that a layoff list would be arriving. Layoffs were set for April 20th and OSA was sent a list of fifteen names. Since OSA shares representation for various titles with Locals 1407 and 2627 of DC37, calls were placed to compare lists and seek information. It turned out we had a Local 1407 member on our list.
The rest of the story should be told, in detail, at a later date, first because the story is still in progress and second because it is hard to discern the full picture at present.
For Now, A Relatively Brief Summary. There was a meeting, to which OSA was not invited -- prior to March 18th -- and at which the HHC made a severance offer which was refused. There was a second meeting, this of the Municipal Labor Committee (MLC), to which OSA was invited. The HHC leadership was faulted for the crisis and demonstrations and lobbying were planned.
OSA notified the leader of the MLC that our union was likely to vote to accept severance rather than layoffs, especially given the small numbers involved (at this moment 13 out of 360 Analysts represented in the hospitals).
The third meeting was at the Office of Labor Relations, where we were told that the City would not offer us severance or buyouts since they had already made the offer to the MLC and would not repeat it. The City also, on this occasion, dismissed any talk of sabbaticals or any other suggestions. The only hope offered by the City was to encourage us to work with the HHC to see if we could redeploy our troops to needed positions within HHC.
Over the next two weeks we worked very hard to redeploy our members. Josie Valentine, HHC Chapter Chair, Donna Cohen, OSA Staffer and many others were involved, and by April 20th, half of our members were saved from layoff. Many were transferring out of our title (and out of our union), but at least their jobs were safe for now. Layoffs had been pushed back to May 1st. On April 20th, we got the bad news. New names were added to the layoff lists by HHC to replace those saved. That was very disheartening indeed.
While we were learning how HHC kept its word, OSA also was involved in either MLC meetings or meetings with different coalitions against the layoffs, in demonstrations, in lobbying, etc.
Between April 20th and May 1st, the union again was able to secure jobs for our members to the point that, by May 1st, half of the April 20, 1998 list had been saved.
On May 1 Came The Compromise, Of Sorts. All 905 employees targeted for layoff will be kept on salary for 30 days, employed by the Department of Citywide Administrative Services. DCAS will hold job fairs and place employees in equivalent jobs throughout the City and the Health and Hospitals Corporation. (Actually, HHC did not show up at the first "pool" and 103 persons got jobs in City agencies.)
Management and labor are drawing up a severance offer and jointly lobbying Albany for an early retirement bill. It is possible that no employee will end up laid off. It is also possible that some of these layoffs may yet occur and still others may be ordered by the Mayor.
There Are Many Queer Aspects To The '98 Layoffs. For example, May 1 was a Friday payday. All laid off staff were still owed, at least, the week's lag built into our payroll system. (Check your pay stub. The City pays you on Friday the money you earned up to the Friday one week earlier.) Thus, on May 15th, laid off folks will receive one week's pay from HHC and one week's pay from DCAS. This will lead to confusion and potential errors.
Many persons have already been "bumped back," knocked out of their positions and forced to return to a lower paid permanent line. Such individuals (having been improperly bumped) will stay where they now are until redeployment or severance but will receive the old, higher salary.
It is not clear that all unions will agree to severance or buyouts. In all prior cases, all unions did consent, but the impact of WEP workers raises a new issue.
In all prior buyouts or early retirement drives, the intent, by the City, was to reduce its work force and provide less service. At HHC, the matter is more complex by far. One clear danger was that the City could be replacing each laid off Local 420 member with WEP workers (no cost to the City, no union, no benefits, no rights).
It is clear that there was no need for these layoffs in the first place. The Mayor's comments about the HHC being a make-work affair to create jobs accords well with his goal of closing all City hospitals, but not well with the facts. If there is fat at the top of the HHC bureaucracy, it is still less than at the top of all our prestigious, well endowed, well connected private institutions, and that fat never reaches down to the guy who washes the floor.
The Mayor may talk of a decline in business (census) justifying massive downsizing but the truth is that a hospital ward with eight patients needs almost as much service from the custodial staff as does a ward with ten persons. The floor needs washing, the trash picked up, the trays brought round and the place kept neat and safe.
The HHC will probably end the year with a surplus. The City has never done better, financially, thanks to the booming stock market.
The layoffs of '98 are different. At our regularly scheduled membership meeting on May 28th, we will have more information and details on the layoffs.
Sanitation Chapter Meeting. At that same meeting, a special pre- and post-meeting will be held concerning only the Sanitation Department members. The position of Agency Chairperson for Sanitation has been vacant for a while, but Steve Parker, a long time activist from that agency, has volunteered. It takes a meeting to install a Chairperson properly and, what's more, there are other positions open in that Chapter.
So, at 5:30pm, before the general membership meeting, a meeting is set for members from Sanitation. If business is not complete by 6:00 pm, the Sanitation chapter meeting will adjourn and resume when the general membership meeting ends. Steve's intent is to avoid asking his fellow Analysts to come to the union office on another evening.
Finally Your Money. OSA has been stymied on our next due 3% raise for quite some time. The City will not pay the 3% raise due on July 1, 1998 (4/1/98 at Board of Ed) until we agree on how to apportion the 1.52% equity raise monies. We could not apportion those monies until the City gave us the correct numbers on our covered membership and their salaries from December 31, 1994. In almost two years of arguing, the City had never corrected the numbers we stated to be wrong from the start.
Now, at last, a new set of numbers have been generated, will be reviewed next week and if correct, will be brought to the General Membership Meeting for discussion. If all goes well, and we are not counting on it, we may even get our raise on time. Do not spend the raise until it is in your hand. The City is often slow to pay, for one lame reason or another.
Notices were sent in the mailing with this letter for various fairs and picnics, petitions you might wish to sign (have your co-workers sign also) and send back to us, and other miscellaneous communications. Please call (212) 686-1229 if you need any of these attachments.
Membership Meeting. The next Organization of Staff Analysts general membership meeting is Thursday, May 28, 1998, 125 Worth Street, Manhattan 2nd Floor Auditorium at 6:00pm.