February Newsletter 2007
COUNCIL LEADER’S CORNER
I want to take a second to thank my Stewards and local Union Officers. They are my eyes and ears in the Hospital. They keep me informed as to problems that are occurring and to what’s going on. They do this as volunteers, on their own time and with no compensation, and their help is greatly appreciated.
Unfortunately, the New Year is going to be a difficult one for PEF members on the Statewide level. Our contract ends on April 1, and negotiations will be difficult. The new Governor, who PEF supported, has proposed a number of new initiatives that will add billions to the State budget while pledging not to increase taxes. If he tries to save money by withholding a fair wage increase from State workers we will be in for a long, hard contract fight.
The proposed Privatization of the SUNY Hospitals is another area where Statewide PEF will be battling for you. The Berger Commission has ordered the Privatization of Upstate Medical Center and called for another study to see about Privatizing all three of the SUNY Hospitals. PEF has made keeping the SUNY Hospitals in SUNY the number 1 priority issue of the Union and will do all it can to fight the idea.
Locally things are looking up, but there are still a number of battles to be fought. While the number of staff nurses is up and the attrition rate is down we must stay on top of Management to further increase staffing levels. Short-staffing on some units and on some shifts is still a major problem.
Unfortunately there are still a couple of ADNs who believe that the way to run a Nursing Station is with Gestapo tactics. I intend to redouble my efforts to either get these individuals to treat Nurses with respect as Professionals or to be sent packing. While the majority of Supervisors do care about their staff, Nursing needs to take action against those few individuals who ignore your rights. It’s no coincidence that over 90% of the grievances PEF filed in 2006 and the vast majority of the active disciplinary cases came from just 2 units. The actions of these ADNs will no longer be tolerated.
There are a number of other items that I will be pushing for during the year. First, the Geographic pay needs to be increased. In particular, our Nurses with over 10 years at Downstate need to be better compensated for their experience and their many years of dedication. Our salary levels need to increase to keep us competitive with other Hospitals in the area.
Next the educational benefits need to be expanded. Nursing needs to be congratulated on getting the free Brooklyn College BS prerequisite program up and running. Now its time to see about getting an MS program offered to our Nurses. Increasing the educational opportunities of the nursing staff not only benefits the individuals but also translates into better patient care.
Nursing also needs to understand that sometimes it’s the little things that are important in employee morale and employee retention. Having a Nurse’s lounge to take a break and having a locker to secure your belongings may seem trivial to some but do help keep employees happy.
During 2007 I will continue to do my best to make sure that your rights are protected, that you are treated as Professionals, and that you have a safe environment in which to work. I may not win every battle but be assured I will be there fighting for you.
The New Year saw the start of a new Vision Plan for State Employees. Davis Vision is out, EyeMed Vision Care is in. Plan benefits will remain the same; however EyeMed’s list of providers is different than the one Davis had, so before making an appointment make sure your practitioner belongs to the new Plan. EyeMed can be reached at (877) 226-1412. Basically our plan allows you an examination and a free pair of glasses (or a $100 credit for a new pair if you want more expensive frames) every 2 years. Also if you let the provider know that you sometimes work on a computer, you are entitled to a second pair at no cost.
There has been a lot of confusion about the Geographic increases (and yes some of it caused by me) about who is entitled to these raises. According to payroll here is how the Geographic raises are given:
Years at Downstate Geographic rate
10 or more $20,820
Thus, any PEF Nurse who on September 21, 2006 was at Downstate for 6 years but less than 10 should have received an increase. Also, any Nurses who on that date was here 4 years (but not yet 5 years) should have received an increase. I submitted a list of names to Human Resources and was told that all Nurses on my list were receiving the proper Geographic amounts. If you still believe you are entitled to an increase or if you are not sure, don’t hesitate to call me.KNOW YOUR CONTRACT
Article 38 of the PEF-NY State contract provides for meal allowances if you are working overtime. If, on a regular work day, you work at least 3 hours of overtime (6 hours if it is not your regularly scheduled work day) you are entitled to a meal allowance of $5.50. If you work at least 6 hours (9 hours if it is not your normal work day) you are entitled to 2 meals allowances.
Article 33 and a side letter to the contract deal with counseling. As stated in the side letter “Counseling is a means of instructing employees as to how performance can be improved; it is a constructive tool.” In other words, in a counseling session you Supervisor is supposed to tell you what the problem is and ways in which you can correct it. Counseling sessions are to be positive, not punitive in tone. If you feel you have been improperly Counseled by your Supervisor let me know immediately.
Management is aggressively going after Nurses who are continually late and/or absent. Their new policy seems to be to first give you a Notice of Discipline before giving you a warning and putting you on Time and Attendance Watch. While PEF understands that excessive absenteeism is a problem at Downstate that affects both patient care and your fellow Nurses, you have contract rights to a certain amount of time off each year and PEF will vigorously fight for your rights. I have already seen a number of NODs issued to Nurses where the number of days they have called in is well below what is allowable. My good friend in the CTICU, in particular, seems to think that she, along with Labor Relations can rewrite the NYS/PEF contract in terms of the amount of sick time members are allowed. PEF will fight each and every one of these NODs and I am extremely confident we will prevail.