NY Union Floats New Idea to Avoid Layoffs

Two days after one of the state’s two major worker unions rejected a contract, the Public Employees Federation President says he has “new ideas” for a contract settlement, and is anxious to meet with Governor Andrew Cuomo to discuss options to avert the 3,500 lay offs ordered by the governor.

Cuomo said the union should “reconsider” and has asked PEF to vote again on the same contract, which was defeated 54 percent to 46 percent. The message from the Cuomo administration is that a second vote on the same contract offer is the only way to rescind the nearly 3,500 lay off notices that were distributed.

The governor settled a similar contract with the state’s other major union, the CSEA, and those union members who are exempt from any lay offs.  

But PEF spokeswoman Darcy Wells said holding another vote on the same deal likely won’t make a difference.

“There’s no reason to believe our members would vote any differently,” Wells said.

According to Wells, the union has asked for more talks with the Cuomo administration, to try to negotiate a new contract, with fewer concessions. Union President Ken Brynien said in a statement that PEF has some “new ideas”.

The rejected deal called for greater employee contributions for health care, multi-day furloughs for the next two years, and a three year wage freeze with 2 percent pay increases in years four and five.  Wells said union members are willing to make sacrifices, just not those particular concessions, and that the leadership is anxious to begin new talks.  

“We’re really focused on this very small window that we have,” Wells said.

Workers who have received pink slips have been told their last day of work will be October 19.

State worker Lynn, who asked that her last name not be used, was warned by her agency that she'd receive a lay off notice, but was still floored by it all.

"This is an extremely large number of layoffs who do vital service, and this is socially and economically disadvantaging the entire state," she said. Lynn was has worked for the state for a total of 18 years in the Parole Department and before that the Department of Labor.

The lay offs would most heavily impact the prisons department and the agency responsible for the developmentally disabled.  

The governor’s director of State Operations Howard Glaser and Brynien did talk later on Thursday, but when asked if there were any new developments,  Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto said simply, “none today.”

With reporting from Kathleen Horan