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Occupational and Physical Therapists Chapter Update

The information below was sent in an email to all occupational and physical therapists in May 2014 in regards to salaries for OTs and PTs under the new contract:

Dear Colleagues,

I hope all of you received LeRoy Barr’s email over the weekend telling you about our win on our contract.

This is a great victory for us. Our union won for occupational and physical therapists what it had promised — big progress in closing the parity gap.

I want to make sure you understand all of our salary gains and other important provisions of our contract. And, I’m also taking this opportunity to let you know that we have nailed down with the Department of Education our process for transitioning from provisional employees to permanent civil service employees, which will carry greater job protections and benefits.

Our contract

Therapists and nurses have their own contract: Everyone in our chapter needs to understand that therapists and nurses have a separate contract vote from the teachers. We share the same Memorandum of Agreement with teachers and other chapters. But therapists and nurses vote separately. This means that every one of our votes counts. It is up to each of us to get our contract ratified. The teachers can ratify their contract while ours could fail. If that happened, everything that we occupational and physical therapists gained in this contract would be gone.

Big jump in pay: As you know, our chief concern on salary was that the higher end of our salary scale be brought closer to teachers. Our negotiating team heard us and made it happen! The maximum salary for therapists jumps from $74,471 all the way to $97,799 by the end of this agreement. We were able to win an increase in base pay for everyone in our chapter and a big boost in longevities because our negotiating team secured a $20 million fund dedicated to salary issues.

What we will see in our paychecks: The increased longevity payments and increase in the base salary for everyone will take effect September 1, 2014. These increases are on top of the 18 percent in raises that our union won for all members working for the DOE. Put all that together and here are three examples of how our pay will change over the course of the contract:

A therapist with MA and 5 years experience currently:

  • $66,639 salary being paid now
  • $68,979 as of September 1, 2014
  • $82,146 as of May 1, 2018

A therapist with MA and 11 years experience currently:

  • $68,978 salary being paid now
  • $71,365 as of September 1, 2014
  • $92,034 as of May 1, 2018

A therapist with MA and 22 years experience currently:

  • $74,471 salary being paid now
  • $83,568 as of September 1, 2014
  • $97,799 as of May 1, 2018

More about our jump in pay: Our jump in pay reflects that, in addition to the increased base salary and longevity payments for our chapter, we will also receive the raises that were secured for everyone in our union. We will all receive a $1,000 signing bonus upon ratification and the following raises and retroactive pay:

  • 1 percent retroactive to May 1, 2013 and an additional 1 percent retroactive to May 1, 2014.
  • Raises over the next four years of an additional 1 percent in May 2015, an additional 1.5 percent in May 2016, an additional 2.5 percent in May 2017 and an additional 3 percent in May 2018.
  • Two 4 percent rate increases from 2009 and 2010 that will be calculated into your paycheck as follows: 2 percent in May 2015, an additional 2 percent in May 2016, an additional 2 percent in May 2017 and an additional 2 percent in May 2018.

All of the above raises, including the increased longevity payments and the increase in base salary, are pensionable.

In addition to the raises, all in-service therapists and other members will by 2020 receive 100 percent of the money we are entitled to, back to Nov. 1, 2009.

Even if you started as a therapist after 2010, you will still receive lump sum payments between 2015 and 2020 if you remain in active service.

And if you retired or are retiring anytime before June 30, 2014, you will receive all of your retroactive pay in one lump sum. If you retire after that date, you will receive your retro on the same scheduled payout dates as members in active service.

Benefits you depend on:

  • Your pension is protected.
  • Your health benefits are preserved. You will have the same insurance and the same co-pays. You will pay no premiums.
  • You will also be able to use three personal days, instead of two, to care for a family member. These come out of your 10 self-treated days each year.

Paperwork reduction: We therapists have had to deal with a growing burden of unnecessary paperwork. Our contract has secured for us a voice on paperwork and electronic work, including SESIS, and created new rules on this issue. And this is very important: We won the right to file grievances for violations of the systemwide standards.

Workday: Not one minute has been added to our workday. Our workday remains the same.

Ratification vote: A few of you have asked me what will happen if therapists and nurses vote down our contract. Here is the answer: Everything listed above that we have gained would be gone.

Civil service status update

Our contract negotiations gave us the opportunity to work out with the Department of Education the process of our transition from provisional employees to permanent civil service employees. Here are some important things to know:

  • The DOE will be developing its civil service list for the titles of occupational therapist and physical therapist over the summer. As I think you’ll remember, this list ranks us all based on our scores on the civil service exams we took late last year and the scores are based on our experience and education. Civil service rules require that the DOE hire from this list. But this is really a formality and non-issue for us because, as you know, we are a shortage area and so all of us on the list will be hired.
  • The DOE plans to start appointing therapists from the civil service list in September.
  • Civil service law requires a probationary period prior to permanent appointment. Normally it is a year for our title. We negotiated to apply nine months already worked as a therapist toward the probationary period, bringing the requirement down to a bare minimum of three months.
  • I know some of you may be wondering, why do I have to go on probation after working for the DOE for 5 or 10 or 15 years? The fact is this short probationary period is a small threshold we have to cross to move from our current provisional status to permanent civil service employees. A court order made it impossible for us to stay in the status we were in. Now, finally, we will have permanent status with the benefits that brings, such as the extended health leave benefit.

Health leave: Some of you have asked about whether we will have the right to extended health leaves. The answer is yes. Upon becoming permanent civil service employees, we will have an extended health leave benefit. This is one of the benefits we will get from gaining permanent status after serving for years as provisional employees.

Our upcoming transition to permanent civil service employees is a good thing for us. We have developed a Q and A on the transition. In addition, if you have any other questions about the transition, please let me know and I will try to get them answered for you as quickly as possible.

I also want to leave you all with one other thought. The idea that we are one union and that our strength as OTs and PTs lies in our union may sound clichéd to some of you. But it is very real. Our union fought extremely hard for our chapter in these contract talks. It also fought for us in ensuring a fair process for our transition to permanent civil service employees. The UFT is a strong union, but we are the union and we are the ones who keep it strong.


Leslie McDonnell,
Chapter Leader 

Related Topics: Chapter News