STATE BUDGET CRUNCH
Wall Street’s collapse has caused a major budget shortfall for the State with a significant decrease in the amount of State support for Downstate. Initially the Governor imposed budget reductions and a hiring freeze, although clinical positions such as Nurses are usually not frozen. Layoffs are not being considered at this time, however, if the situation worsens, anything is possible.
I was at a meeting where the State Comptroller talked about the budget and Wall Street woes and how it might affect State workers. He revealed that for the first time he and the Governor had discussed an early retirement incentive to try and reduce the State workforce. These talks are in the earliest of stages and there is no guarantee that the incentive will be forthcoming. However, if you are planning to retire in the next few months, you might want to hold off for a short period of time to see if an incentive materializes. If you were thinking of retiring in the next year or two you might want to think about moving up your plans – depending upon the terms of any incentive offered.
Comptroller DiNapoli also talked about the effects of the stock market drop on the retirement system. First and foremost the State Employee Retirement system is almost fully funded, is rated as one of the best in the country, and is no danger. Stocks, according to the Comptroller, make up less then ¼ of the system’s holdings. Furthermore, our pensions are fully backed by the State of NY and thus there is no reason to be concerned about your retirement pensions.
Unfortunately supplemental retirement accounts have been hurt by the financial crisis and you should carefully monitor any accounts you might have.
Gale Baptiste (ED) was recently elected as our new Assistant Council Leader. We are lucky to have her and I look forward to working closely with Gale on Union matters.
PEF has assigned Barry Markman to be our new staff Field Representative. Barry has worked for PEF for a number of years and is knowledgeable about our contract and Nursing issues.
Over the next few pay periods there are a number of salary increases that PEF Nurses may be eligible for.
First, the location pay for all PEF members will be increased by $1176 effective Oct. 2, 2008. (Remember we are lagged by 2 weeks and that $1176 divided by 26 pay periods comes out to $45/ paycheck before taxes.)
Next the Geographic pay of eligible Nurses will go up in the 10/29 paycheck (retroactive to 9/23). If I have it right, Nurses who, on the raise effective date, are here 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, or 10 years should be entitled to an increase. Nurses who are here 10 years or longer already get the maximum Geographic amount.
In the year you started with the State, if you were hired between April 2 and October 1, have at least 1 year of service, and have not yet reached the top of your salary grade, you will receive a Performance advance increase effective Oct. 2. For Nurses 2s the increase is $1601, for Tch. & Res. Spec Nurses the increase is $1644, and for Nurse 3s the increase is $1784.
All PEF members will receive a 3% increase effective April 2, 2009.
Finally, members hired between Oct. 2 and April 1, who have been here at least 1 year, and who are not at the top of their grade, will receive their next performance advance effective April 2.
If you are not sure what you are or are not entitled to, please call me at ext. 1362 and I’ll do my best to help you figure it out.
PEF’s 30th Annual Convention was held in Rochester, NY from September 14 thru September 18. Downstate was represented by 14 delegates who attended the plenary sessions, workshops, luncheons, and yes, even got in some party time.
Of most importance to us here at Downstate was the fact that this convention set the apportionment of the Statewide Union’s Executive Board to be selected during next years statewide elections. At the Departmental meetings it was voted to give Downstate a 2nd seat on the Eboard. Thus, we will have more influence on Union policies that are discussed and approved by the “Union’s Legislature.”
The Long Term Disability Insurance is having an open enrollment lasting until November 21, 2008. If you apply before this date you will be automatically approved at the 50% of salary level with no medical questions asked.
The coverage pays a benefit for disabilities lasting longer than 6 months and will continue to pay until age 65 if you remain totally disabled. Information about the plan is being sent to the homes of all PEF members.
Just to remind everyone that you are allowed 3 AA days per year for educational purposes. You must request the days off in advance to attend workshops, conferences, etc. If you don’t use the days, you lose them. They don’t accumulate or carry over to the next year.
DOWNSTATE AT BAYRIDGE
After months of waiting and a number of false starts Downstate finally has begun some operations at the former Victory Memorial Hospital. An Acute Care Receiving Center and a Family Practice Clinic are up and running and the State has given approval for an Ambulatory Surgery Center which should be in operation shortly.
I want to welcome the newly hired Nurses into our PEF Division and assure them that they will not become “orphans” but will receive the same services from PEF that the members here at Downstate receive. I’ve already been to the site a couple of times and intend to drop by at least twice a month – more if needed.
Our local PEF Division 198 website is now up and running. I’ll try to keep it updated on a regular basis with useful information about both Downstate and Statewide PEF issues. You can find the site at:
Last week I walked 1 of our Nurses to the ER because she was having chest pains and palpitations. She was treated immediately by the ER staff and especially looked after by our ER Nurses. My thanks for taking good care of one of our “family” members.
PEF endorses candidates for election in NY State and Federal elections. There is a Union procedure wherein Regional PEF Political Action Committees make recommendations to the Statewide PAC Committee, which then makes recommendations to the Union’s Executive Board which has the final say on candidates. PEF has endorsed candidates from both major political parties, basing its endorsement on how well the candidates agree with our PEF Union issues. To see a listing of PEF endorsed candidates go to WWW.PEF.ORG and look under political action. Volunteers are also needed to help campaign for our candidates and information on this can be in the Election 2008 area of the website.
Although PEF does give money to endorsed candidates, no Union dues are ever used as political contributions. PEF has a separate fund known as COPE (Committee on Political Education) whereby members, thru payroll deduction, voluntarily agree to have a dollar or two or more taken from each paycheck to be used for political purposes. This year at PEF’s Convention in Rochester, our Division won the COPE award for our high level of political action and for being the PEF Division with the most new contributors to the COPE fund. Even so, less then 25% of our Division’s members contribute and we need to increase this. I would like us to become the first Division in PEF’s history to win this award two years in a row.
PEF is involved in politics because our contracts, our salaries, our terms and conditions of employment are all negotiated with politicians. Having a Governor and a State Legislature who are Union friendly helps us with negotiations and with issues that are important to us. For the record – PEF has endorsed Obama for President.
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