July/August 2023 Communicator CoverJuly 28, 2023 — PEF members turned out in force to ratify the 2023-2026 Professional, Scientific, and Technical bargaining unit contract, with more than 50% returning their ballots, and 95% of those members voting “yes.” 

“I am so pleased that PEF members showed up in force to ratify this deal,” said PEF President Wayne Spence. “It is the fourth I have negotiated as president, and it is by far the most lucrative, with more than $1 billion in ‘new money’ for members of the union who do so much to serve the people of New York.” 

Ahead of the ratification vote, PEF’s statewide officers hit the road in Regions 4, 6, and 7, meeting with more than 400 members at 10 locations, explaining the highlights of the tentative agreement, and fielding a variety of questions. 

To round out the week-long tour, Contract Team Chair Darlene Williams and PEF Director of Contract Administration Debra Greenberg sat down with a group of OPWDD members in Syracuse on July 21 to go down the list of contract gains and answer questions. 

Among the highlights are 3% increases to base salary in each year of the contract; a $3,000 signing bonus; a $600 annual Higher Education Differential beginning in 2024; a $400 dental stipend for NYSHIP dental enrollees until the state enters into a new contract; 12 weeks of fully paid parental leave without charge to accruals; and a change to the performance award system that will now base payments on years of state service, not years at the top of salary grade. 

Increases in location pay, hazardous duty pay, and sick leave accumulation are also included. There were no changes in health insurance premium contribution percentages. 

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“We began the negotiating process last year and we kept a steady pace to reach a tentative agreement when our contract expired,” Spence said. “It’s a testament to the strength of our union that we were able to negotiate things unique to PEF, such as the Higher Education Differential and the dental stipend. 

“We know dental is a big concern to many of our members and we didn’t want to agree to a contract until it was addressed in some fashion,” he said. “This is costing the state more than $24 million each year they don’t enter into a better plan.” 

At a stop in Malone, members shared what they liked most about the contract. 

One said the contract was a good steppingstone for future contracts: “The best thing to me about this contract for me and my family is that obviously it takes care of us in the now, but it also sets a foundation for future negotiations. Every contract is a template for the next one. I think they’ve done a wonderful job.” 

Another member said the “money increases, the differentials and some of the extra bonuses that we’ve never even of heard of before” meant a lot for her family and she appreciates the contract “has put a lot of importance on what we do.” 

Members at OPWDD in Syracuse were pleased with the Higher Education Differential, saying all salary grades need to be increased but this was a step in the right direction to recognize the level of education members must obtain. They appreciated the dental stipend and look forward to a new plan. 

There was excitement about the changes to longevity, which will make more members eligible, and the new paid parental leave, with one member who recently returned to work after a birth saying she will be eligible for reimbursed accruals. 

A member who started in 2006 said she was looking forward to getting longevity under the new agreement: “I’m really looking forward to actually finally being able to get longevity, and the way it turns out, my first longevity payment will be the 17-year payment, so it will be $3,000, so I’m really grateful for that change.” 

The Statewide Officers Tour’s first leg covered PEF Regions 9, 10, 11 and 12 in May 2022, reaching about 700 members at 13 different events; and Regions 1, 2, 3 and 5 in August 2022, stopping at 14 worksites and interacting with more than 800 PEF members.