Tier / Pension Equity
A comprehensive package of items serving to equalize the pension benefits impacting public employees must be attained in the 2023 state legislative session. Disparities among the myriad pension plans that our members are enrolled in, often times within the same job specification, must be addressed. Maintaining and improving the basic benefit of public employment, a decent defined benefit pension plan, has always been – and remains – a priority for NYSPEC. Because recent nefarious and draconic modifications to public employee pensions have created a climate within which recruitment and retention of qualified individuals is exacerbated to unprecedented levels, NYSPEC elevates this long-standing priority to the top of the priority list for 2023.
Legislation providing protection for public employees from short- and long-term physical and/or mental effects from the COVID-19 Coronavirus (“COVID”) and its variants, including presumptive disability for COVID-related illnesses/diseases must be enacted.
The ability to obtain fiscal notes with respect to pension legislation affecting NYC employees must be addressed.
We oppose any legislation involving restrictions on disciplinary segregation, or any form of Humane Alternatives to Long-Term Solitary Confinement Act (“HALT”) reform that would place Department of Correction employees at increased risk of injury.
Accountability and Resources for Real Criminal Justice Reform
Any and every proposal to provide the resources necessary to build a path for success for all individuals charged, convicted and sentenced to imprisonment or community supervision. However, the path for success requires those individuals convicted and sentenced for crimes to abide by the previously established rules for re-entry into the community.
Legislation to reform the current parole process must maintain as a central mission that parolees are ultimately responsible for their own success and that parole officers have a responsibility to keep communities safe from individuals who are knowingly and willfully violating the agreed upon terms and conditions of their release from incarceration.
Eliminating the potential for sanctions against parolees for violating the terms of their parole hurts the rehabilitation process, reinforces negative behaviors and potentially puts the community at risk. It is inappropriate and harmful to the rehabilitation process for parolees to be relieved of responsibility for violating the conditions of their release, including consuming illegal drugs, consuming alcohol, reporting their residence, changes in their residency, etc. to their parole officers.
Parole officers serve to guide, support and help parolees transition back to society and to protect the public during this transition process. The overarching goal of parole officers is to help parolees safely and successfully reintegrate back into the community.
Real Parole Reform Needs to Provide Resources and Protect Communities.
Instead of removing the parolee's responsibility for success, the state needs to build a process with the appropriate resources, oversight and support necessary to help parolees succeed over the long-term. NYSPEC believes that the best path to success includes the following elements:
Retiree Health Insurance
We oppose any diminishment of health insurance benefits for retired public employees.
Retired Peace Officers Firearms Carry Inclusion
Pursuant to the 2022 change in the law regarding those retired police officers permitted to carry their licensed firearms in “sensitive locations”, the new law failed to include those retired officers designated as Peace Officers under Criminal Procedure Law section 2.10. The exclusion of such Peace Officers has resulted in the preclusion of qualified former law enforcers who are not retired police officers from entering sensitive locations with their authorized weapons. Such an ambiguity should be corrected by adding those law enforcers designated as retired Peace Officers to the exemption language as defined in Penal Law section 265.01-E (3).
Single Payer Healthcare (New York Health Act)
We oppose any legislation which circumvents, converts, and/or nullifies hard-fought gains to health care coverage obtained through collective bargaining
The state, police, fire and local retirement systems were designed to provide security for public employees in retirement. Pension contributions are made by employers in lieu of salary and other negotiated benefits. The reserves in the pension systems belong to the public employees and should not be used for any purpose other than retiree benefits.
Periodically, state and local governments encourage employees to retire early. Incentives maybe targeted to certain areas of the workforce or titles. However, eliminating positions from the public service can cause unacceptable cuts in services, and even burden the remaining workforce. Further elimination of titles must not negatively impact on the level of service provided.
It is necessary to provide adequately for families of public employees who die in the line of duty. It should be the policy of the state to upgrade public employees who die in the line of duty to the top-step salary.
Ensure that the public employee workforce has the tools needed to prevent occupational illness in any future, risky work environment. In spite of state, county and municipal budget constraints, public employers must continue to ensure a safe workplace. Every effort must be made to promote compliance with health and safety measures to ensure employer policies provide a safe working environment, and that all equipment meets the necessary standards.
Public services are the foundation upon which commerce, industry and a civil society are built. Public employees at every level of government are citizens who provide these essential services. They must be guaranteed compensation, benefits and pensions that will allow them to live with dignity in their communities, and help them sustain the state and local economy. Maintaining these public services is the responsibility of every citizen, business and institution. Those who benefit most from the prosperity that public services provide have a greater responsibility to sustain public services. Therefore, the New York State Public Employee Conference supports progressive methods of taxation that put the responsibility of paying taxes on citizens, businesses and institutions who benefit most from this prosperity and have a greater ability to pay.
While the passage and signing of the 9/11 Presumptive Disability laws was indeed laudable, we all are aware that the existing legislation is imperfect. The 9/11 Governor’s Worker Protection Task Force has made recommendations for improving the existing legislation. However, the Task Force has not met in quite sometime; it must resume meeting soon and regularly. We continue to support efforts to obtain funding, federal or otherwise, to address any 9/11-related issues. The time limit for applications for benefits from, and the sunset of the 9/11 Presumptive laws, must be eliminated.
Any temporary legislation that provides benefits to public employees should be passed.
The Workers' Compensation system increasingly adds complex and burden some procedures. This does not meet the needs of the New York State workforce. It delays access to proper medical treatment and diagnostic testing. Many workers are not restored to health quickly enough to return to the work force within one year from date of lost time. This leads municipalities to increase usage of Civil Service Law §71, which allows them to terminate employees who have been absent from work for a one-year period. In recognition of these ongoing concerns, we support the following:
The New York State Public Employee Conference applauds the efforts of our elected officials in providing a permanent Cost of Living Adjustment for our retirees. However, we submit that further legislation is needed to make improvements. We seek legislation to grant a “Catch-up” for all those individuals who retired prior to 1966. Spouses of deceased retirees currently receive 50%. That should be increased to 100%. The cap should also be increased from $18,000 to $25,000, and eligibility should be changed from age 62 and retired for five years, to age 55 and retired for five years.
Remedial action is needed, since many public servants have been wrongfully denied their rightful retirement benefits. Such denial causes unreasonable hardships as retirees progress further into their retirement years. NYSPEC seeks legislation that will revive the cause of action for those members who took the necessary steps to qualify for retro active membership, but were denied, and failed to bring action within the time allowed by law, or whose case was dismissed without prejudice or not decided upon the merits.
Enactment of legislation is urgently needed to ensure that patients receive quality healthcare services. Research studies and consumer satisfaction polls clearly show a relationship between RN staffing and quality of care. New York’s workforce is entitled to the best health care services, and that must include an optimal nurse-to-patient ratio. Minimum safe staffing levels must be regulated to protect the public from harm. Requiring safe staffing would prohibit employers from using mandatory overtime as a nurse staffing solution other than in defined emergencies.
In 2021, New York State recognized the importance of minimum staffing for nurses in general hospitals and nursing homes to ensure that patients receive quality health care services by enactment of laws that create compliance committees.
Recent developments in the correctional services have highlighted the need for minimum staffing levels in jails and prisons to ensure the safety of staff and the incarcerated persons in their charge. Complusory overtime to cover staffing shortages – regardless of whether these shortages are short-term resulting from exigent circumstances, or long-term resulting from poor budgetary decisions – is dangerous at the very least. A mayoral decision to not hire correction officers, and then to force existing staff to work 24-hour shifts during a public health emergency, is sheer incompetence.
The time has come to examine staffing levels, not only in the correctional services, but in all areas of public employee responsibility, as is being done for the nurse-to-patient ratios in general hospitals and nursing homes. Enactment of legislation which would prohibit employers from using compulstory overtime as a staffing solution(other than in defined emergencies) is needed. Additionally, legislation establishing compliance committees relative to all first responder / front line job specifications is urgent, and these committees must each include rank-and-file public employee union representatives.
Certain current public employees enjoy the ability to purchase retirement service credit for time spent serving in the military. We sincerely thank the legislature and the governor for the enactment of Chapter 41 of 2016, which significantly increased the pool of public employees who are eligible for the benefit. However, those who have retired from public service, as well as those who have not yet vested in their retirement system, should also be afforded this opportunity as a result of their selfless service to their country during which time they were unable to accrue service credit.
For more than a century, the public’s confidence in our democratic form of government has been reinforced when only the most qualified candidates having an equal opportunity to compete are appointed and promoted objectively to the public service. New York State’s Constitution Article V, Section 6 requires that appointments and promotions to the public service be made in accordance with merit and fitness and: “as far as practicable, by examination which, as practicable, shall be competitive; ...”
History has shown and we strongly believe that competitive examinations are practicable. Therefore, NYSPEC supports the enforcement of this enduring constitutional provision as the cornerstone for the selection of qualified individuals in the public service. Furthermore, we oppose any attempts to circumvent, diminish, or undermine the full enforcement of Civil Service Law.
Recent decisions from the Court of Appeals have nullified the employee's ability to receive a fair and objective hearing during disciplinary processes. This stands in direct contrast to basic American jurisprudence. NYSPEC advocates new legislation to require the appointment of an independent hearing officer for those cases in which an employee faces dismissal. Every employee should have the right to a fair and neutral hearing officer when his/her career is threatened. This longstanding inequality should be corrected.
Several decades ago, the “heart bill” was passed as a temporary law to provide police officers and firefighters assistance in the event their employment was disrupted as a result of heart disease. Physical evidence clearly indicates that not only police officers and firefighters, but other public employees, because of the pressure and stress of their jobs, suffer heart disease at a higher rate than the general public, and the Legislature has acknowledged this with the addition of correction officers, EMTs, sanitation workers and court officers to the heart bill. The time has come to make the heart bill permanent, and to include other classifications that are similarly situated.
Clarifies presumptions pertaining to heart-related disabilities or deaths suffered by members of the New York State and Local Police and Fire Retirement System, and the New York State and Local Employees’ Retirement System. Maintains that a presumption exists that the injury was incurred in the performance of the victim’s duties and was the natural and proximate result of an accident.
The under lying tenet of the Taylor Law is that all parties are to negotiate in good faith. Dragging out contract negotiations, sometimes for many years after the expiration of a contract, is financially harmful to public employees and their families. It also can cause severely low morale. Currently the law is weighted heavily in favor of the employer, providing a no-strike clause with severe financial penalties and loss of dues check off. The sections of the Taylor Law that protect employees’ rights must remain intact.
Protection for union officials who speak out on behalf of their members, regardless of the severity of their statements with respect to elected or appointed officials, must be included.
We seek to introduce and promote legislation that will provide all members who are employed by state and local governments, and who are members of a public retirement system who retire from service, with a benefit that is comparable to the so-called “Variable Supplements Fund” that is received by certain uniformed forces of the City of New York.
Pensions for public employees must be guaranteed.
Waivers for continuing employment of public employees in the public sector should be treated in a fashion that addresses the needs of the specific employment situation, and does not inhibit advancement from within.
All public employees’ survivors should be permitted to purchase COBRA at the same rates as the survivors of Uniformed Services’ employees.
Employers must be required to abide by the New York State Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) and the New York City Office of Collective Bargaining (OCB) decisions regardless of their claims with respect to ability to pay.
Employees are suspended for long stretches of time prior to being afforded the ability to defend themselves in a disciplinary hearing. Long periods of suspension prior to a hearing act as a prejudged disciplinary sentence that places untenable financial burdens on the employee, while giving the employer no incentive to expedite a fair disciplinary process. The Public Employee Conference strongly advocates legislation to limit the amount of time an employee is suspended prior to a fair disciplinary hearing.
Enactment of legislation is urgently needed to ensure that all public employers provide adequate staffing levels of supervision for emergency services such as police, fire, EMS, and TBTA for the purpose of maintaining span of control during emergencies and the daily operations of emergency services.
Enactment of legislation is urgently needed to ensure that all public employers provide adequate staffing levels of supervision for all emergency personnel acting in support of emergency services for the purpose of maintaining span of control during emergencies and the daily operations in support of emergency services.
Inclusion in the New York State budget of increased and permanent funding for the City University of New York School of Labor and Urban Studies until it is fully funded.
Enactment of legislation is needed which would require mandatory consecutive sentencing for any individual who, while in custody of the police, the courts, or corrections, and is a defendant in a criminal case, commits a violent act such as assault, whether physical or sexual, against any police, court, or correctional personnel. If charged with that crime and found guilty, that individual must be sentenced consecutively and not concurrent to any sentence they are already serving or are sentenced to.