After almost three years of hard work by a tremendous number of people, PEF has reached a tentative contract agreement with New York State. The Executive Board met in emergency session on June 8 and overwhelmingly approved the agreement, 91-3, for voting on by the full membership. Thanks to historically quick work from the PEF legislative team, both houses of the state legislature unanimously approved the funding bills, which puts us on track to deliver the many benefits in this tentative agreement this year if it is ratified by members.
PEF’s Contract Administration department has put together answers to Frequently Asked Questions as members consider the agreement. Every member will receive a lengthy document in the mail this month that contains three parts: Highlights of the 2019-2023 PS&T Tentative Agreement, a comprehensive look at the Gains and Trade Offs of the Agreement, and a full marked-up copy of the Tentative Agreement as worked on by the PEF Contract Team and negotiators from the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations (GOER). There is also a timetable on the back page of the document which includes key dates in the ratification voting process. Ballots will be mailed July 2 from the American Arbitration Association (AAA) in an orange envelope and must be returned in the postage-paid envelope so they are received at AAA by 5 p.m. on July 26. Votes will be counted on July 27.
Now let me back up and emphasize just how much work went into this process. The PEF Contract Team began training for the negotiations in the fall of 2018, long before the word COVID was in our vocabulary. As you know, when the pandemic struck the state called off negotiations for more than a year, but our preparation never stopped. That preparation paid off as the team was ready to negotiate immediately when the state finally returned to the table on April 27, 2021. They met with GOER numerous times during this period to hammer out the agreement. It was beyond frustrating at times, but thanks to the leadership of PEF Contract Chair Darlene Williams, Chief Negotiator Mark Richard and Director of Contract Administration Debra Greenberg, PEF stayed strong and delivered what members told us they wanted: Two percent annual raises retroactive to the expiration of the last contract in 2019, retroactive improvements to longevity (performance award) payments, the elimination of the four-day-per-pay-period limit on telecommuting, the creation of a new license/certification renewal fee reimbursement program, reinstatement of the Productivity Enhancement Program (PEP) as of July 1, 2021 (and for all of 2022 and 2023), and increases in the maximum annual benefit for covered dental expenses and the lifetime maximum for orthodontic expenses to $3,000 each as of Jan. 1, 2022, with a side letter requiring the state to put the dental contract out to bid. Those are just some of the highlights. I encourage members to thoroughly review this tentative agreement and follow up with your local PEF leaders with any questions. We have already started holding Q&A meetings across the state. Please talk to your local council leader to find out when your division or region is on the schedule.
Please enjoy the rest of this Communicator, which includes an amazing tale of heroism from a PEF parole officer, details on the July 10 Family Fun Day at Six Flags in Jackson, N.J., on July 10, and valuable advice for anyone who contracted COVID-19 on the job and has not yet filed a Workers’ Compensation claim. We’ll be back with our annual July/August double issue after spring gives way to summer.
As always, thanks for all that you do and please stay safe.