Health Dept. Restores Leave for Social Workers

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LOCAL 768 President Fitz Reid with Social Workers at a continued learning course at the union hall. New York State requires the courses for Social Workers to maintain professional licensure.

By DIANE S. WILLIAMS

The union settled a group grievance for nine Local 768 members that restores their annual leave after the city forced them to use accrued time for continuing education courses required to maintain their licensure as professional Social Workers.

“It took quite some time to resolve, but through the persistence of dedicated staff in the Professional Division, including the director, Stephanie Miller, Reps Dana Tilghman and Shayvonne Jones,” said Local 768 President Fitz Reid, “and other concerned members at the worksite, who weren’t even affected but agreed to be a liaison for information, the union prevailed.”

Union protects its members

New York State mandates Social Workers to take 36 hours of courses every three years to maintain their professional licenses. These courses ensure they are current with the best practices and issues regarding mental health, elder care, adolescent care, homelessness, drug dependency, and more.

Managers of the Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene denied the nine Social Workers excused leave time, insisting that the employees use their annual leave instead.

After talking to members, Council Reps Tilghman and Jones filed a group grievance.

“Forcing the employees to use accrued leave violates the Social Services and related titles agreement between the city and the union which provides excused time for approved educational purposes,” explained Moira Dolan, a senior negotiator in the union’s Research and Negotiations Dept.

Eventually, DOHMH and the Office of Labor Relations offered a settlement, and in February the members signed a stipulation that restores their leave time.

“All Social Workers are affected and must comply with the state requirements in order to stay employed,” said Reid. “Many have taken continuing education courses through the union’s Education Fund.” Since March of 2016, the Ed Fund’s Stephen Johnson organized and facilitated 11 workshops for 800 Social Workers in Local 768.

“The union is determined to protect members’ rights in every way possible,” Reid said. “We appreciate these members’ patience and encourage all to know their rights and ask questions if they believe their rights have been violated.”

The DC 37 Blog is an online publication of District Council 37, AFSCME, which represents 125,000 municipal workers in New York City.

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