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United Cerebral Palsy workers OK new contract

Elaine Forrest (right), the UFT chapter leader at United Cerebral Palsy's Lawren Jonathan Fickies

Elaine Forrest (right), the UFT chapter leader at United Cerebral Palsy's Lawrence Avenue site in Brooklyn, works with others to count votes at the UFT Brooklyn borough office on Nov. 23.

After roughly six months of sometimes contentious negotiations, approximately 800 UFT-represented workers at United Cerebral Palsy of New York City have a new contract.

UCP members voted overwhelmingly on Nov. 23 to approve a three-year pact with wage hikes that range from 7 to 10 percent over the life of the agreement. Workers also will receive a longevity bonus of between $500 and $1,000 upon completion of 10, 15 and 20 years on the job.

Members are happy with the financial package, especially the longevity bonuses in recognition of their years of service, said Elaine Forrest, a certified teacher assistant and the union’s chapter leader at UCP’s Lawrence Avenue site in Brooklyn.

“Every penny counts,” Forrest said. “It enables you to do something more with your paycheck.”

The union also won important noneconomic changes. For example, employees hired prior to June 18, 2003, who have never administered medication, cannot be required to do so.

Under the new contract, the union has 30 days — up from 15 days previously — to file for arbitration if the employer does not resolve a grievance at step two.

The probationary period for new hires has been reduced. For some job titles, probation will now be three months, down from six months; and for other titles, it will now be six weeks, down from three months. UCP has pledged to make available professional development opportunities to help site-based employees maintain their certification.

Workers beat back an attempt by management to tie pay raises to evaluations, going so far as to take a September strike vote over the issue.

“We said we’d rather walk out than let them do that,” said Thara Baucicault, a residences program specialist and the union’s chapter leader at the UCP Residences, which are spread across the city. “It’s a form of disrespect. If you work hard, you earn your raise.”

The UCP workers — including teachers, teacher assistants, direct care workers, clinicians and other support staff at more than 30 worksites across the city — signed their first contract in June 2003, but UFT Special Representative Ilene Weinerman, who coordinated the negotiations with Bronx Borough Representative Howard Schoor, said this victory was especially sweet.

“We’ve won improvements like longevity bonuses that the members have wanted since their very first contract,” Weinerman said. “The raises we won are the largest we’ve ever gotten over the life of any single contract.”

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