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The Empire

Cuomo 'very happy' to avoid PEF layoffs after union approves contract

Thursday, November 03, 2011

By Karen DeWitt, New York Public Radio Capital Bureau Chief

The Governor after the contract was ratified. (Courtesy of the Governor's office.)

Governor Andrew Cuomo says he’s “very happy” that the Public Employees Federation ratified a second contract offer, and says he has rescinded orders to lay off nearly 3,500 workers on Friday.

Cuomo says he’s “surprised and gratified” at the margin of victory for the second contract offer, because he says the two proposals were not all that different. He says he thinks the vote changed because his administration and the union worked more collaboratively this time around to change union members’ minds.

“This is a dramatically different outcome for only relatively minor modifications on a contract,” said Cuomo “I think it was the tonality.”

After the first contract was rejected in September, Cuomo’s aides sent pink slips to 3,500 workers. PEF Vice President Tom Comanzo says he thinks that had an effect on the more than 50,000 other union members. Even though they were not losing their jobs right now, they likely knew someone who would be terminated if they voted no on the contract.

“We had names and faces,” said Comanzo. “I think that helped make a difference.”

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The Empire

PEF members approve contract, save 3500 from pink slips

Thursday, November 03, 2011

From PEF:

By a count of 27,718 to 11,645, members of the New York State Public Employees Federation (PEF) ratified a revised four-year agreement with the state that averts significant layoffs.

The ratification of the new agreement saves the jobs of 3,496 PEF members and preserves the vital services our members provide.

The agreement preserves the pay-scale, the employment and the careers of PEF members. It maintains increments and salary-grade parity, longevity payments and co-pays for doctor visits at their current levels. It calls for no salary increases for years 2011, 2012 and 2013. A salary increase of 2 percent is included for 2014.

The new contract increases the share members will pay of their health insurance premiums, but includes changes to the productivity enhancement program which will allow members greater opportunity to use vacation time to offset health
insurance costs. The new contract includes reimbursement for the 9 furlough days payable at the end of the agreement.

“More than 75 percent of our membership voted on the agreement,” said PEF President Ken Brynien. “Although this was a difficult decision for our members, it demonstrates they are willing to do their part to put New York state on a stable financial footing, as all New Yorkers should, and are helping to resolve a fiscal crisis for which they were not responsible."

New York Public Radio's Karen DeWitt will be filing a reaction piece to this soon and we'll have that up.

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The Empire

The Divided Union: Why CSEA's contract was so much easier than PEF's

Thursday, November 03, 2011

To the outside observer, it probably seems strange that the state’s second largest public employee union—PEF, which is announcing the results of a new contract vote today—was unable to agree to terms with the state the same way the largest public employee union—CSEA—was able to.

The major points of departure between the two unions comes down to who makes them up. With CSEA, you have a younger, lower earning, less formally educated, more ethnically and racially diverse membership than PEF. During their labor negotiations, CSEA membership is said to have strongly empathized with the plight of fellow workers: they didn’t want to see their friend Suzy get laid off, or were worried about what Jack’s kids would do if he didn’t have a job.

This isn’t to say PEF members were more coldly willing to kick 3,500 of their union brothers and sisters to the curb. But in CSEA, the members were more closely linked—the gap between the highest CSEA member incomes and the lowest is far closer than in PEF. In the latter’s case, their specialized membership can mean one or two people in a job title in the entire state.

The more specialized—and higher earning—positions also tend to be older. So if you’re making $75,000 a year, and you’re within ten years of retirement, looking back at the PEF member who is less specialized, younger and making half your salary, the sympathy vote for that person’s job over a better deal for you can be a tough choice. Obviously, in the last round, that seems to partially account for the contract's downfall.

But that’s not the whole picture, said Ed Ott, the former executive director for the New York Central Labor Council and current a consultant with OT Solutions. PEF’s membership—about half the size of CSEA’s—is also plugged in, politically, to what’s going on, Ott said, which results in greater internal debates over these sorts of issues.

“They really, really have an internal political life and nothing gets through without a thorough discussing and I think that contributed to the vote,” he said, referring to the vote against the first contract. PEF leadership has reportedly been doing a major push to get members behind—something they didn’t do the first time.

Ott said the vote was also a rebuke of the anti-union sentiment that’s reached a peak this year. He said, with a better deal hammered out between the Cuomo administration and union leaders, the new contract would likely pass—but note assuredly.

“I would be really surprised if it went down again,” Ott said. “But this is PEF—it's possible."

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The Empire

PEF union leaders hopeful ahead of member vote tomorrow

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

By Karen DeWitt, New York Public Radio Capital Bureau Chief

The state worker union PEF will announce Thursday afternoon whether members have accepted or rejected a second contract offer from Governor Cuomo.  If the vote is no, 3500 employees face likely lay offs.

The leadership of the Public Employees Federation has gone all out to try to convince the 56,000 PEF members to approve the contract this time around, after a resounding rejection of the initial contract back in September. They’ve distributed flyers in state office complexes, rented out a billboard in downtown Albany, and PEF President Ken Brynien issued a video message.

“As President of PEF, I’m going to share with you why I’m recommending that you vote yes,” Brynien says in the message, who lists job security as the number one reason.

PEF spokeswoman Darcy Wells says PEF leaders want to save the 3,500 jobs targeted for elimination, but also believe the second offer is a better deal for members.

“There were several improvements,” said Wells. “There’s some significant changes in this revised contract.”

After the first contract was voted down, the Cuomo Administration and PEF Leadership agreed to some “tweaks." Among them, nine proposed furlough days would be converted to essentially a pay lag: workers would be paid for those mandatory days off when the contract ends in four years.

The resulting decrease in pay over the first two years of the contract would not affect workers' pension rates. And anyone who retires before the contract ends would be reimbursed for the
furlough days. Health benefit costs would rise on a sliding scale, and workers could trade unused vacation time to help pay for premiums.

Governor Cuomo says this is his last, best offer to the union. He says the outcome is now in the members’ hands.

“It’s up to PEF,” Cuomo said.

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WNYC News

Occupy Albany Demonstrators Hunker Down For Winter

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Occupy Albany demonstrators are using outdoor heaters as they hunker down across from the state capitol.

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The Empire

PEF executive board approves new deal

Monday, October 17, 2011

Let's try this one more time.

After announcing earlier that a deal had been reached between PEF officials and Governor Cuomo's office, the union's executive board approved the new contract. Now, it's back to the membership who recently rejected the first version of a new contract.

“The Executive Board recognizes the changes we were able to obtain under the revised agreement address many of the concerns of our members,” PEF President Ken Brynien said in a statement. “Today’s vote gives hope to the 3,496 members who face losing their jobs if the contract is not approved. The revised agreement balances the needs of all of our members and I am strongly encouraging our membership to ratify the new agreement to save the jobs of their co-workers while preserving the level of service to taxpayers."

The membership has until November 3 to make its decision.

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The Empire

Cuomo, PEF reach tentative agreement

Monday, October 17, 2011

Governor Cuomo, left, with Lt. Governor Duffy (Courtesy of the Governor's office)

The Public Employees Federation's leadership and Governor Andrew Cuomo's office both announced over the weekend that they'd come to a tentative agreement to avoid layoffs--something 70 percent of New Yorkers support, according to a new Siena Research Institute Poll.

The new four-year (versus original five-year) contract would still freeze raises for three years, and would change how furlough days are reimbursed at the end of the contract.

“The changes we were able to obtain under this revised agreement address many of the concerns raised by our members," PEF President Ken Brynien said in a statement.
“If the agreement is approved by our executive board and ratified by the full membership the jobs of 3,496 members will be saved."

"The Administration has worked very hard with the PEF leadership to make modifications which the leadership believes will address the concerns of the membership." Governor Cuomo said in his own statement. He went on to not that the new contract hadn't changed the math on the state's side--"contract modifications are revenue neutral to the state"--nor the language that would allow the governor to enact layoffs in the future.

"I am confident that my Administration has been more than reasonable and fair, as CSEA's ratification demonstrates. Simply put, the fate of the members is in the union's hands. It's up to them," the governor said.

This should make the 70 percent of New Yorkers who wanted the governor to go back to the negotiating table happy, according to a new Siena Research Institute poll.

“While a plurality of voters would like to see state workforce cuts if spending reductions are used to close next year’s state budget deficit, right now, the vast majority of voters do not want to see 3,500 state employees being handed their pink slips,” Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg said in a statement.  “Advice to gov: keep speaking and hold back on the stick.”

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WNYC News

Cuomo, State Workers Union Reach Tentative Agreement

Monday, October 17, 2011

Governor Andrew Cuomo and the union representing state workers have reached a tentative agreement that could avoid nearly 3,500 layoffs.

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WNYC News

Closed-Door Talks Continue on 3,500 NY Layoffs

Friday, October 14, 2011

Closed-door negotiations continue in Albany to reach an agreement that would avoid laying off 3,500 New York state employees.

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The Empire

Cuomo says PEF talks "ongoing"

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

By Karen DeWitt, New York Public Radio Capital Bureau Chief

Courtesy of the Governor's office

Governor Andrew Cuomo says he’s still trying to work out his disagreements with the state worker union, the Public Employees Federation, so that there are no layoffs. Already 3,500 pink slips have gone out.

The union has scheduled an executive board meeting for Monday October 17th, two days before the layoffs are slated to occur.

Cuomo says talks are “ongoing” with the union, and he’s “doing everything” he can do to avert the scheduled job cut backs.

“On the human level, I don’t want to see 3,500 people or so laid off,” said Cuomo “I don’t want to see 3,500 families go through that.”

But the governor says it’s up to the PEF leadership to convince its members to vote on the latest contract offer.

On Tuesday, PEF President Ken Brynien complained that Cuomo’s negotiators weren’t providing enough details of a new offer, and accused the administration of dragging its feet. But today there was a notice on the PEF website saying “the lines of communication between PEF and the state remain open," and that the union is trying to reach a deal.

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The Empire

Cuomo "open to tweaks" with PEF contract

Friday, September 30, 2011

Courtesy of the Governor's office.

WNYC's Richard Yeh picked up on Governor Cuomo's radio interview on sister station WCNY's "The Capitol Pressroom" show:

Governor Andrew Cuomo said he's keeping conversations open with the Public Employees Federation as the state's second largest labor union prepares what it calls "new ideas" for a contract agreement.

The Cuomo administration has sent pink slips to 3,500 PEF members this week, following the union's vote rejecting an earlier contract deal calling for wage freezes and higher healthcare premiums.

Cuomo said Friday on the "The Capitol Pressroom" show on WCNY Radio that he would consider tweaks to the contract deal, with some caveats.

"Of course I'm open to tweaks," he said. "We're talking about 3,500 people. Now, it depends on how you define tweak."

Read the rest of the piece here.

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WNYC News

Cuomo: I'm Open to Tweaks in Union Contract

Friday, September 30, 2011

WNYC

Governor Andrew Cuomo said he's keeping conversations open with the Public Employees Federation as the state's second largest labor union prepares what it calls "new ideas" for a contract agreement.

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The Empire

Union prez to Cuomo: PEF prepared to present to the state new ideas

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Courtesy of the Governor's office

NYS Public Radio Capitol Bureau Chief Karen DeWitt has an update on the battle between the Public Employees Federation and Governor Andrew Cuomo. Earlier this week PEF voted against a contract negotiated between the union's leadership and the governor's office. Now, PEF is hoping to bring the Governor back to the bargaining table.

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 3500 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 3500 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.

Read the rest of this article on WNYC.org.

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WNYC News

NY Union Floats New Idea to Avoid Layoffs

Thursday, September 29, 2011

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.

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WNYC News

Cuomo Threatens Layoffs After Union Rejects Contract

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Governor Andrew Cuomo said the second largest state worker's union should reconsider its decision to reject a contract with concessions aimed at avoiding layoffs.

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The Empire

Statement from Governor Cuomo on PEF's contract vote (updated)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

UPDATE: Governor Cuomo's Director of State Operations Howard Glaser just released a statement with this ominous line:

Members of the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA), who agreed to a layoff protection as part of their ratified collective bargaining agreement, will not be subject to the approximately 3,500 layoffs that will begin today.

It seems clear Cuomo's office is making good on its layoff promise, even as PEF President Ken Brynien has said he hopes the governor's negotiators will "immediately return to the bargaining table to work out an agreement which our members will ratify."

Governor Andrew Cuomo's statement on PEF membership's rejection of the contract agreement struck between the union's leadership and the Governor's office:

The members of the Public Employee Federation (PEF) have made their decision on a contract that would have protected them against the state needing to lay off their workers in order to achieve the required workforce savings passed as part of this year's budget.

In this economic reality, rising state workforce costs are unsustainable, as the members of the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA), the state's largest union, recognized when they overwhelmingly passed an identical contract. The Legislature passed a budget that made clear that reducing these costs would be achieved either through the collective bargaining process or through layoffs.

I urge them to reconsider.

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The Empire

PEF rejects state contract

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

In a blow to Governor Andrew Cuomo's string of labor victories, the Professional Employees Federation--New York State's second largest union--announced its membership had rejected the agreement reached between its leadership and the governor's office.

With nearly 70 percent of the membership voting, the union rejected the measure 54 percent to 46 percent.

“The decision to reject the tentative agreement was made by our rank-and-file members who clearly feel they are being asked to sacrifice more than others, particularly in light of the pending expiration of the state’s millionaire’s tax," said PEF's President Ken Brynien in a statement. “We are calling on the governor to resist laying off thousands of our members as he has threatened and, instead, work with us to identify savings that would preserve the state’s depleted workforce and services, especially during this economic downturn and in light of the recent flooding."

The governor's office has threatened the union with layoffs if the contract, which included three years with no raises, was not approved.

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The Empire

PEF to announce contract vote tomorrow

Monday, September 26, 2011

New York State Public Employees Federation, the state's second-largest public employees union, is scheduled to announce the results of its contract ratification vote tomorrow at at 2pm. Governor Cuomo has threatened pink slips if the union doesn't accept the contract, which, among many slimmed-down agreements, would see union employees go without pay raises for the next three years.

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The Empire

Governor reaches tentative deal with state's second-largest union

Monday, July 18, 2011

PEF logoGovernor Andrew Cuomo's office and Public Employees Federation leadership reached a tentative deal on Saturday to avert thousands of layoffs, while saving the state $400 million over the course of the contract, the governor's office reported on Saturday.

"This agreement reflects the financial reality of the times. I am pleased that we could avoid these layoffs, protect the workforce and the taxpayer," Governor Cuomo said in a press release.

The governor's office had to rescind layoff notices to members of PEF sent out on Friday after the deal was announced. The new deal would freeze wages until 2014, require members to pay more towards the cost of health care, and reform the existing health care system for employees.

The union's rank-and-file membership must now vote on whether to approve the deal. A similar deal was reached with the state's largest union, the Civil Service Employees Association, late last month, which is also awaiting membership approval.

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