July 5, 2023 — The PEF Contract Team and New York state reached a tentative agreement (TA) on the 2023-2026 PS&T contract on June 6, bringing to the Executive Board the next day a proposed contract with many valuable gains that recognize the hard work and dedication of PEF members.
“This is a very good contract,” said President Wayne Spence during a telephone town hall meeting June 28. “This contract contains well over $1.25 billion in new money. I believe this contract definitely shows the value of PEF members.”
The tentative agreement provides a 3% increase to base salary, retroactive to April 2023; a 3% increase to base salary, effective April 2024; and a 3% increase to base salary, effective April 2025.
Contract Team Chair Darlene Williams said members can expect salary increases within three or four months after ratification, which will be determined after the July 28 vote tally. “The Office of the State Comptroller, like many state agencies, is overworked and understaffed, but we believe they will do their best to process the salary increases as soon as possible,” she said.
Lump sum payments
The TA provides a one-time signing bonus of $3,000. The bonus is not added to base salary, and it is not pensionable. Employees in continuous State service from June 6 to October 12, (Administration payroll) or October 19 (Institution payroll) are eligible to receive the bonus and it is prorated for part-time employees.
There is also a new benefit – the Higher Educational Differential.
“This is what makes our contract different,” said Williams. “We sought to obtain a benefit that would be unique to PEF members. We hope to expand this benefit and make it permanent in the next go-round.”
The Higher Education Differential provides a lump sum payment of $600 in the 2024-25 fiscal year and another $600 lump sum in the 2025-26 fiscal year. Members would need proof of their higher education degree or professional license from SED to be eligible for this payment.
Another lump sum unique to this contract is the dental stipend.
“We know dental is an important issue to the membership,” said Williams. “In the last round of negotiations, the state agreed to put the dental plan out for an RFP, but the process was slow. We were in a situation where other unions were receiving more money per member and we impressed on the state that we didn’t want to be treated differently.”
Under the TA, members who are on the dental plan will receive a dental stipend of $400 a year until the state enters into a new dental plan contract. This is in addition to the dental coverage provided by EmblemHealth.
“We worked out an agreement where we basically receive $24 million – more than 50,000 members each getting $400,” said Williams. “We hope this is an incentive to assure the state enters into a better dental contract as soon as the RFP process is completed.”
PEF requested an audit of the state’s dental contract and joined with other unions to put pressure on the state to find a better deal. Because of that advocacy, the state recently announced a new program that would allow members to use non-network doctors, at in-network rates.
See the details here under Dental.
“We’ve gotten their attention,” Spence said.
Paid Parental Leave
A valuable benefit for growing families, Paid Parental Leave provides 12 weeks of fully paid leave, without charge to accruals, for the birth, adoption, or foster care placement of a child. There is no cost to members.
To read more about the PPL benefit, click here.
The TA includes no change in premium contributions or copays. Additionally, dependents would be eligible to remain on dental and vision plans until the age of 26, regardless of their student status.
A change in how out-of-network providers are reimbursed will help contain premium costs in the future by disincentivizing doctors from remaining out-of-network.
“Out-of-network doctors are routinely getting reimbursed at higher rates than in-network,” said Williams. “For example, an out-of-network doctor can get $1,000 for a procedure, while an in-network doctor is only getting $400. We believe this is an important measure to contain costs as these bills are paid for, in part, through the bi-weekly premium contributions of our members.”
Productivity Enhancement Program
Through the Productivity Enhancement Program (PEP), members can get a leg up on their health insurance premiums by cashing in excess vacation or personal time to pay for their share of the insurance premium.
The number of days allowed to be used was increased. Now employees up to Grade 17 would get a maximum of eight days and Grades 18 to 24 would get up to five days. Under this TA, teachers would now be allowed to use comp and floating days, in addition to personal days.
“In addition to the gains on days, this program no longer sunsets,” Williams said. “We fought for this. Now our members will be able to use PEP to help offset health insurance costs without having to worry about the program expiring. It’s a big deal and we made it happen.”
In the 2019-2023 PS&T contract, provisions included requirements for the creation of robust agency-level telecommuting plans. That has not changed in this TA because of the tradeoffs the state wanted.
“They wanted to use keystrokes to time keep you,” said President Spence. “Some agencies have had to improve telecommuting to recruit and retain. For some people, telecommuting is more important than salary.”
Everything discussed at the town hall and highlighted in the Q&A documents will only become available if the agreement is ratified. Ratification is only possible if members return ballots.
“All of these things will happen when the contract is ratified,” Williams said. “I think it’s going to be very, very important for people to come out and vote. The Contract Team worked really hard to make sure we heard you, we listened, we looked at the priorities and we understood what was needed.
“Send your ballots in as soon as you get them,” she said. “Turnout is going to be important for us.”
PEF has traditionally had good voter turnout – but President Spence would like to see more.
“You have one of the highest, if not the highest, voter turnout of unions in New York,” said Chief Negotiator Mark Richard, who has worked on hundreds of contracts over his career. “That’s a testament that you understand the process; you understand a good contract.
“Your contracts are in the billions,” he said. “It has decades of history and building and moving the process. Nothing is more important than member unity. The state watches and they see that unity. I’m asking you all to vote.”
Ballots will be mailed on July 5 and must be received back — that means in hand, not just postmarked — by 5 p.m. on July 27.
Visit www.pef.org/contract for information on the tentative agreement.