March Newsletter 2007
COUNCIL LEADER’S CORNER
During 2005 Downstate Medical Center issued 2 Notices of Discipline against PEF Nurses. In 2006 that number dropped to 0. In the first 2 months of this year Labor Relations has already issued 6 Notices of Discipline, and 2 other cases were settled prior to the issuance of an NOD. (In both of these cases the Nurses had been suspended without pay and were “forced” to settle.) The number of Interrogations of Nurses (the first step in Labor Relations investigations) has already surpassed the entire total for 2006 and at least 2 more will be held in the near future. At a time when morale is already low and when there is a Nursing shortage, why this attack on Nurses. Yes, even I have to admit 1 or 2 of the disciplinary cases are warranted, but in my view, most of the cases are frivolous and are intended by some Supervisors to harass their staff.
PEF will hold its annual Nurse’s Lobby Day on Tuesday May 22, 2007. As always we will have a bus leaving from Downstate and I will have sign-up sheets available shortly. For those of you who have no idea what this is – every year PEF sends Nurses up to Albany and schedules small group appointments with Legislators. It’s our opportunity to let them know of the problems and concerns Nurses have – like mandatory overtime, low staffing levels, and low salaries. For the past few years Downstate has had the largest contingent of Nurses attending the event and I’m hopeful that this year will be the same. PEF provides the buses and meals; we need you to attend to let the Legislators know what’s important to us. So if you’re off on May 22, please sign up and join us at the Capitol.
Our contract with the State ends on April 1, 2007. Written into this contract is an $800 increase in base pay (not a 1 time bonus) for all PEF members effective on April 1. Longevity payments of $1250 or $2500 for those at the top of their grade for 5 or 10 years are also effective as of April 1. However, because of the lag you won’t see the money for a few weeks.
There is also a new merit increase that will affect the base pay of PEF members in Salary Grades 18 and below who are at the top salary for their grade (with the $800, the top base salary for a Nurse 2 or a SG-16 PEF member will be $50,987 and for a Nurse 2.5 or SG-18 member $55,954). To qualify for this merit increase you must have worked for the State at least 5 years, have not been found guilty in any NOD, and have had 3 years of satisfactory evaluations. For a Nurse 2 this increase in base pay will be $466 while for a Nurse 2.5 this increase will be $1413.
An online infection control training course is available on the NYSNA website. You must lay out the money, but you can be reimbursed by the State. The reimbursement is through the Certification and Licensure Exam Fee Reinbursement program and information and forms are available at: WWW.goer.state.ny.us/train/pst/certlicenseexamfee. Be aware, however, that to be reimbursed you must complete the course, take the exam, and submit documentation by March 31, 2007.
This years PEF convention will be held for the first time in New York City from September 16th – 19th. Elections to become a delegate will be held in a couple of months and all PEF members are eligible. PEF pays for your hotel room at the Sheraton (or will provide $60 a day if you choose to stay at home and commute to Manhattan), and provides money for meals. The resolutions passed at a PEF Convention set the direction and policies of the Union for the coming year. Besides me (I get sent automatically as our Eboard representative), we will most likely be able to send 10 other members as delegates. If you would like to know more about how to be a delegate, what the responsibilities are, and what actually goes on at Convention, please call me at ext. 1362.
As I’ve stated in other areas of this newsletter, our contract with the State ends on April 1, 2007. Our salaries and our health and dental benefits are all protected and will continue even if a new contract is not in place. In past years, however, when we have not had a contract, the State has ended educational benefits such as the Voucher Program and the Voucher Alternative program. While there is no telling what the new Governor might do, it might be a good idea, to plan on not having these benefits until the contract issue has been resolved. In the past when these benefits were restored, after we finally got a new contract, the Educational benefits were not retroactive. The locally negotiated benefits such as the free Brooklyn College program and the $2000/year if you go to Downstate’s School of Nursing are not affected by the statewide contract.
PEF, along with other State Worker’s Unions, recently won a lawsuit against the State concerning the payment by members of Medicare Part B premiums. This victory means that the State had to recalculate the premiums paid by all members for their health insurance. Beginning April 1, Individual coverage in the Empire Plan will drop from $22.54 per pay period to $21.30 while those who have family coverage will see their premiums drop from $92.54 to $89.59. It’s not much of a decrease, but every little bit helps. Unfortunately, for those members who have an HMO rather than the Empire Plan, there is a good chance that your premiums will be going up slightly. For any employee in an HMO whose rates will be increased, the State will hold a special change option period in the event you would like to change your health insurance because of the increase. Information about the premium changes and the change/option timetable will be mailed to your homes shortly.
KNOW YOUR CONTRACT
Article 20 of the PEF-NY State contract deals with your Personal History Folder. According to this contract section there is only one official file maintained for each employee and you are supposed to be sent copies of documents “simultaneously with their being placed in the personal history folder.” You have the right to review this file within 3 working days of your requesting to see it and upon written request, “material over 3 years old shall be removed from the personal history folder, except unsatisfactory performance evaluations, personnel transactions, pre-employment materials, and notices of discipline and all related records.” At Downstate these files are kept in the Human Resources office on East 34th Street. I strongly urge all PEF members to view their files each year to make sure they are up to date and do not contain any inaccurate information. You are also allowed to add to your folder “a response of reasonable length to anything contained therein which such employee deems to be adverse.”
Management has the responsibility to ensure that employees have a safe environment in which to work. Nurses should not have to fear for their safety on a daily basis. I have made personal safety an important issue and have worked hard to make sure that you are safe at your worksite. For their part, the Downstate Management is concerned about the safety of both staff and students and is doing what they can. However, the world can be a dangerous place and you always need to remain on your guard. Recently a Downstate doctor was attacked and physically assaulted by 3 teens at 6:30PM on East 35th street near Lenox. Especially at night, try to walk with others and make use of the Downstate shuttle service to take you to the subway or more distant parking lots. Be aware of what is going on around you.