|News From OSA - September, 1999
Normally, our September edition of "News From OSA" is a "light" one because, well, not all that much usually happens during the Summer. This year, there are some serious matters to report.
Major changes are in progress in our welfare fund and our drug coverage. The one thing you do need to know right now is not to cancel your drug rider if you are enrolled in GHI-CBP. About 60 percent of our members are covered by that plan. Recent changes in GHI (increasing the coverage of hospital stays, but also increasing the cost of drugs) have an impact on our Welfare Fund. But the one point to keep in mind is not to precipitously drop the drug coverage still included in the optional rider at this time.
Background. OSA's welfare fund has sought to match the Management Benefit Fund for the past ten years. One benefit of our fund (and theirs) is the Superimposed Major Medical (SMM). The SMM helps members who have unusually high "out of pocket" expenses for medical care. Most of us seldom or (if we are lucky) never get any help from the SMM, but when it is needed, it is there.
The deductible needed to be achieved before the first penny is covered by the SMM is $500 for those covered by GHI with 365 days of hospital coverage, $2000 for those covered by GHI without 365 days of hospital coverage, and $10,000 for those in any other plan without 365 days of hospital coverage.
As soon as the Management Fund learned that GHI would now cover the 365 days of hospital stay for all participants (GHI now includes the 365 days of hospital coverage in their basic coverage, no longer in the optional rider), their trustees moved to change the requirement for their deductible on the SMM. Now they will require persons to continue the GHI optional rider for the drug coverage. We are making the same change for the OSAWF.
There are a number of other changes being made by the MBF, as we had predicted in the Summer mailing. Our trustees are studying these improvements carefully. Soon, you will be receiving a letter from the OSAWF notifying members of the changes made by MBF and the extent to which we agree to match those changes.
Drugs Again. The effect of the cost of drugs upon our pockets, and upon the resources of any welfare fund that provides a drug plan, is currently extreme. A meeting is due this month of the Municipal Labor Committee to discuss this problem. There will be a report to you on these discussions.
Meanwhile, this past Summer, those of our members covered by GHI had a nasty surprise. With insufficient notice, members were forced into a mail order program for recurring prescription needs. Credit in the letter was given to GHI, NYC and the municipal labor unions. It is greatly to be doubted that any labor person had been involved in the details of writing the letter, nor were any of us warned that we would be given short notice of entry into a new, compulsory mail order system.
Citywide issues, issues that affect many employees regardless of union affiliation, are negotiated, by law, by the largest union (DC37) or the Municipal Labor Committee. In fact, we have been well-served over the years by Roz Yasser of the DC37 Benefits Fund. Roz has a large and knowledgeable staff, and Roz herself generally knows the answers to the most esoteric questions relating to GHI and HIP and the other health plans.
As a result OSA has sent a letter to Roz (below) noting the errors made by GHI this summer and asking her to intercede to insure it never happens again.
Longevities. Most agencies have now paid the 6/1/99 longevity raises. Some did fail to add compounding where appropriate, some were not clear as to which of their staff were due the money, and at least one agency fell down on the job entirely.
The Health and Hospitals Corporation has yet to pay one cent of the new longevity money. Their planned due date, at present, is October 15th. Even then, we have been told HHC will only cough up the money for two out of three of the longevities the 15th year and the 20th year. Members due the 10th year longevity are not scheduled to receive it until October 29th.
Whenever it does arrive, retroactivity is also due back to 6/1/99, unless a member reached the point of entitlement after that date.
A Labor Hero. Donald Singer, president of the Council of Supervisors and Administrators was arrested this month for blocking the entrance to 110 Livingston Street. Don's action stemmed from his frustration over his inability to conclude a contract for school principals and other administrative staff for the past six years. The photo (right) of Don in front of 110 Livingston, accompanied by a multi-story rubber rat, appeared in The Chief.
The principals have not even gotten the small raises that we have received and principals are departing the system in large numbers, enticed by higher salaries in the suburbs.
Yet, the dispute is not about money. The City has offered Don's union a raise greater than we received, if only Don will agree to abandon the cause of tenure for principals. He will not. His union will not. They are correct.
Tenure does not mean a guaranteed job for a scoundrel or a ne'er-do-well. Tenure means due process if the boss wants to fire you. If you deserve to be fired, on any objective basis, the Board of Education can still fire you, and if their disciplinary system is slow, imperfect and poorly funded, this is only the fault and intention of management.
Removal of tenure is the loss of due process. Thereafter, principals will be fired for subjective reasons, or political reasons, or even worse reasons. This would be bad for the principals, the schools, the students, and our City.
Over the past months, the press has been full of stories of wrongdoing by, and indictments of, union officers who did the wrong thing by their members. It is a nice change to hear of a union officer who goes to jail on behalf of his members.
One Big Win. Many years ago the City would give a leave line to any civil servant serving probation in a higher title. As an example, a permanent civil service Caseworker, who passed the civil service exam for Staff Analyst and was then appointed, would be put on leave from the Caseworker title to serve as a probationary Staff Analyst. If he or she failed probation, restoration to the lower title, Caseworker, was automatic.
Later the City took a short cut and ceased to give leave lines to permanents going off to serve probation in a higher title (other than promotional appointments). Even so, in all known cases, any failure while on probation led to restoration to the earlier title.
Only after the arrival of Diane McGrath McKechnie to City government did a new system take effect. Diane, during her stay at the Community Development Agency, initiated the ugly
practice of using Analyst probation periods to trick long time civil service workers.
Diane approved those workers' appointments from the Staff Analyst list and then fired them during their probation with no due process at all. OSA had to go to court to seek to obtain pensions for the affected members. One such case is still being fought through the courts.
As soon as the precedent was set by McKechnie, OSA had to deal with copycats from other agencies and even the Mayor's office, who wondered why they hadn't thought of it.
Another one of our members, after about a quarter century of service in other titles was fired while on probation because of a dispute with IRS over taxes. Now, normally, no permanent employee ever gets fired over taxes, but since our member was on probation in this new title as Analyst, she was vulnerable. No due process was required. The Mayor's Office fired her without charges or trial and refused her pension.
OSA had to spend many hours and dollars in court but, as of last month, we won this case. Our member will now obtain her health benefits, a retroactive check for nearly two years of retirement payments and, given her many years of service, a fairly nice pension.
Kudos to our attorneys Joan Kiok (pictured right) and Bob Felix for winning this case and, a "Bronx Cheer" to the Mayor's Office for seeking to deprive the lady of her hard earned pension in the first place.
A long term solution to this situation will involve Citywide bargaining. In the meantime, it is nice that we keep winning in case after case, thanks to our attorneys, the courts, and the simple justice of our cause.
General Membership Meeting. A new place for this month: the OSA Office, 220 East 23rd Street, Suite 709 (between 2nd and 3rd Aves), Thursday, September 30, 1999, 6PM Sharp. For a change, we can serve refreshments. Take the IND 8th, IRT 7th, IND 6th, PATH, IRT Lex, or BMT R/N to 23rd Street - and the crosstown bus if necessary.
September 16, 1999
District Council 37
On the last day of July 1999, a letter arrived from GHI informing me that changes would be made in my drug plan on August 1st. The changes would affect me and sixty percent of my members making it more expensive for me and for them as well. That was bad, but expected.
in addition to increasing the price for drugs, the letter also notified me that as of August 15, all prescriptions for "chronic medications" must be submitted and refilled through the mail service program. this required myself and hundreds of my members to race out to seek our physicians during the height of the vacation season. That was worse than bad, that was awful, potentially painful and dangerous, and totally unnecessary.
Why was GHI, which gave full credit to the municipal labor unions for their part in this action, allowed to spring an "August surprise" of this sort? In June I had been warned, through M.L.C, that prices were going up. Neither I, nor a single member of my union, was warned about the changeover to required mail order routine until late July.
As for the letter that was sent by GHI on this matter, the letter was incomplete, confusing, full of sales pitch and missing crucial details. I was sent an envelope with a form printed on it. I could not answer the first question on the form ("Group's name") unless I called the help line to find out the Group name. (The name of the group turned out to be not the Human Resources Administration, nor the Agency for Children's Services, nor the Organization of Staff Analysts nor Paid Prescriptions nor any of my early guesses. The name of the group is GHI-NYC).
The phone tree found at (877) 444-2674 told me about their web site, about the fact that calls would be monitored and about my choices. On my first choice, I was, for the second time told about their web site and then asked for my member number. This I happen to know, is my social security number. I was then asked for my prescription number, which I did not know. End of call.
On my second try, after a few more notifications of the availability of their web site, I spoke to a person who actually told me the "Group name" and then told me how much I had to pay for prescription ($4.33). She could not explain why my letter said all generic co-pay supply would cost $8.00. I will send a letter to GHI asking them if I should believe this letter or their phone representative. Keep in mind, the letter says the Municipal Labor Unions are informing their members of all the new rules.
My members had and have no recourse and are furious that "the union" would do this to them. My members are right. Why did we allow this to happen? I am sure you will agree that we must not let this happen again. If we are to be given the credit (blame?) we must be allowed some input as well.
Robert J. Croghan