July 3, 2023 — Dentists, Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants will receive compensation increases thanks to the efforts of PEF and many of its members.
“Nurse practitioners at PEF have been rallying for improved pay and a career path,” said PEF Nurse Organizer Nora Higgins. “They have often been overlooked and deserve a career path and proper pay.”
The PEF Organizing and Civil Service Research/Enforcement departments collaborated to secure the upgrade.
“We were shocked to see how underpaid they were in our research,” said PEF Research Associate Jean-Rene Shekerjian. “So many nurse practitioners do a lot of the same work as doctors, about 95% of the same duties.”
The increases to compensation come in the form of both an Increased Hiring Rate (IHR) and a Statewide Geographic Pay Differential (Geo Pay). Previously, only members employed by DOCCS at Sing Sing and OPWDD at Sunmount benefitted from the IHR.
The IHR will allow Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants to start at the job rate, instead of at the starting rate, for their title and salary grade. This means a higher salary that is more competitive with the private sector.
The Geo Pay for Downstate and the Mid-Hudson area increased up to $40,000. The rest of the state increased up to $25,000.
This does not mean that Geo Pay will automatically go up to $40,000 or $25,000 for all titles at all agencies and institutions. It means that facilities that decide to implement additional Geo Pay have the option to go up to $40,000.
It also means that Geo Pay implemented for a position at a certain salary grade, applies to that salary grade and those below it. As an example, if a position’s hiring rate is $83,550 and a location implements a $10,000 Geo Pay, the rate is adjusted to $93,550. An employee making $83,550 or less receives the full $10,000, while an employee making $90,000 receives only the amount that brings them to the adjusted rate of pay, in this example that would be $3,550.
It will be up to agencies and specific locations to decide how much Geo Pay is given to which Salary Grades. However, an employee hired at the new IHR may still be eligible for the new Geo Pay as well.
The move to close the wage gap between private and public employees in the medical profession was and still is being fought for by PEF members.
Carl Ankrah, a nurse practitioner at Rockland Psychiatric Center, organized his fellow nurse practitioners under the group “Coalition of Civil Service Nurse Practitioners.” The coalition has been working for many years with the goal of recalibrating the salary grade for civil service nurse practitioners and other medical professionals in the sector.
“We have always believed that our salary was not congruent with the market,” Ankrah said.
The coalition started taking steps to make their concerns known in 2015. One of the first actions was to lobby the legislature to pass a study bill to authorize the Department of Civil Service to look at the insufficient pay grade of Nurse Practitioners. When that study concluded the pay was sufficient, the coalition kept fighting.
“We did not agree with the study,” said Ankrah. “We discovered on our own that Nurse Practitioners are 95 percent female,” he said. “We wondered if we were being underpaid because the profession is female-dominated.”
It would take a few more years, but after Gov. Kathy Hochul’s election in 2021, the coalition saw an opportunity to make their voices heard. By submitting handwritten letters to the governor, the coalition was able to gain a seat at the table to speak directly with Civil Service.
With the implementation of the compensation upgrades, the coalition was successful in securing some benefits for the members in need.
Ankrah says that this is only the beginning.
“This is a step in the right direction,” Ankrah said. “Reallocation is the ultimate goal.”
Ankrah and the coalition are waiting to hear from Civil Service while they work to collect information from agencies about the need for raising the salary grade.