NY union leaders, state reach new contract agreement

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 16, 2011 7:28 PM

By Holly McKenna

ALBANY, New York (Reuters) - New York State's second largest union, the Public Employees Federation (PEF), on Sunday ratified a tentative contract with the state in a bid to avert the layoffs of thousands of workers.

Governor Andrew Cuomo called on the union's Executive Board to approve the four-year contract at a meeting in Albany on Monday and set up a revote for its more than 55,000 members.

"We hope that the leadership as a whole moves for a revote and the membership is governed by the needs of the collective and ratify the contract," Cuomo said in a statement.

The governor said his administration has been "reasonable and fair" in its negotiations with the union, citing the earlier ratification of a contract with the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA), the state's largest public employees unions.

The CSEA voted for a similar pact in August, protecting its 66,000 members from losing their jobs this year and next.

The PEF rank-and-file membership voted down their five-year contract in late September. The state then began sending out layoff notices to about 3,500 PEF members.

The board's approval will delay the effective date of the layoff notices that have been already sent out from October 19 to November 4. This delay will allow time for a membership ratification revote, which, if approved and ratified, will preserve the jobs of 3,496 PEF members.

"Simply put, the fate of the (PEF) members is in the union's hands. It's up to them," Cuomo said.

The new agreement includes reimbursement for nine furlough days payable at the end of the agreement. The lump sum payment that was included in the earlier tentative agreement would be exchanged to reimburse the furlough days.

The pact also calls for no salary increases in 2011 through 2013, but includes a salary hike of 2 percent in 2014.

"The changes we were able to obtain under this revised agreement address many of the concerns raised by our members," said PEF President Ken Brynien.

"If the agreement is approved by our executive board and ratified by the full membership the jobs of 3,496 members will be saved," he said.

The Cuomo administration had said the contracts were expected to save the cash-starved state about $450 million.