Gov. Kathy Hochul launched a pilot program that would provide nurses and other “patient-facing” health care professionals at State University of New York hospitals with up to two and a half times overtime pay.
Hochul reached the agreement with the PEF and CSEA unions after mandating that all patient-facing employees at SUNY hospitals must be vaccinated, with no test-out option.
However, the security guards at these SUNY hospitals were left out of the pay boost, despite also having to follow the vaccine mandate.
The New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association (NYSCOPBA), which represents around 130 of these security officers who work at SUNY hospitals, wrote a letter to Hochul’s office, expressing their “earnest frustration.”
“If the state considers our members to be a risk to others because of their direct interactions with patients and medical settings, then they should be afforded the same benefits and financial opportunities as the rest of the patient-facing hospital staff who are being rewarded through this overtime program for their efforts during this hazardous public health crisis,” Mike Powers, president of NYSCOPBA, wrote to Michael Volforte, director of the governor’s Office of Employee Relations.
Almost 8,000 health care professionals and hospital employees will be receiving the bump to their overtime pay.
The benefit is retroactive to Sept. 16 and will apply to registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, techs, medical assistants, aides, clerks, cleaners and other patient-facing staff at SUNY hospitals.
This pilot program will last through the end of 2021. After that, the state will evaluate the impact.
Powers blasted what he called a “regrettable oversight,” and criticized both state and SUNY leaders.
“To think that this administration did not consider our members or consult with NYSCOPBA during the development of this pilot program for public employees is discouraging and calls into question the leadership of our state officials during a critical point in this pandemic,” Powers writes. “There can be no legitimate reason, financial or otherwise, for excluding our approximately 130 members when the program is set to benefit almost 8,000 health care professionals and hospital employees. The additional compensation this overtime increase will provide is just as valuable and just as deserved for our members as it is for the eligible members of PEF and CSEA.”
NYSCOPBA has pushed back against the state’s vaccination mandate, saying while they support their members getting vaccinated, they also believe that ultimately that should be left up to individuals.
Right now, only security guards who work at SUNY hospitals are mandated to receive the COVID vaccine and are not being given the option to instead test weekly for COVID-19.
A group of these security guards, filed a lawsuit last week against New York State, arguing that the vaccine mandate is unconstitutional.
The security guards work at the SUNY Downstate Hospital in Brooklyn, the SUNY Stony Brook hospital on Long Island and the state Veterans Home in northern Westchester County.
Former state Attorney General Dennis Vacco filed the lawsuit on their behalf and argued the mandate targets this sector unfairly. Vacco also filed a temporary restraining order to keep the mandate from going into effect, but a judge denied this motion.
The governor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.