6/19/08

Labor-state bars overtime

Pols serve as collective bargaining agent for entire state

With two days left in the legislature's regular session and little apparent progress on big issues, Gov. David A. Paterson and lawmakers last night announced deals on working hours for nurses, barring rogue teachers and administrators from schools and extra electricity generation.

The leaders agreed to end mandatory overtime for nurses working in hospitals and nursing homes but not in home care, beginning next summer. The move is aimed at encouraging more people to become nurses, addressing a chronic shortage.

Paterson estimated 30 percent of licensed nurses aren't working in the profession - many because of mandatory overtime, which leaves them exhausted and away from their families. "This is an issue of patient care as well as workers' rights," he said.

Groups representing hospitals and nurses lauded the deal. Local 1199 of the Service Employees International Union noted New York will join 14 other states that already ban mandatory overtime. "We are extremely excited at the prospect that nurses will no longer be compelled to work beyond the point of safe functioning," said Pat Greenberg of the union's nurse alliance.

Shaun Flynn of the New York State Nurses Association added, "This will help end the nursing shortage."

But Daniel Sisto, president of the Healthcare Association of New York State, called for tackling the shortage's "root cause" by authorizing more state aid so nursing schools can admit more students.

Paterson and the legislative leaders also reached agreement to revoke the teaching certificates of registered sex offenders and licenses of school administrators found to have defrauded the government.

Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno (R-Brunswick) predicted the state's energy needs would be partially met with a deal allowing businesses to send excess electricity back to the grid in return for credit on their bill.

Negotiations continue over higher-profile issues such as cleanup of toxic industrial sites, gun control, tax credits for environmentally friendly buildings and patient notification of doctors who have been disciplined. Paterson was optimistic more deals would be struck.

But he also acknowledged his plan to cap yearly increases in school property taxes would have to wait for a special session in the summer or fall. "We're probably not going to come to some agreement in the next few days."

Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco (R-Schenectady) criticized Paterson for complying with a court order to provide undergarments for transgender children in juvenile detention centers. "If we're going to buy bras and panties ... we can provide property tax relief for people," thundered Tedisco.

Later, Bruno said progress was being made toward a remedy for the foreclosure crisis stemming from subprime mortgages. There needs to be tougher criteria for loan applicants, he said. "We've got to reform the system because the way it exists now too many people are in trouble."

(newsday.com)

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