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It’s a crime. What it really means is that government is failing.

State unions angry about planned Cuomo layoffs

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State worker unions are decrying Governor Cuomo's plan to begin laying off nearly 10,000 state employees as early as next month. It was a week of bad news for unions, as governor Cuomo released a plan to restrict future pensions, and quietly announced the closing down of some state facilities. Karen DeWitt reports.

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Reported by

Karen DeWitt
NYS Capitol Correspondent

A memo leaked to the Albany Times Union said Cuomo’s budget office will go ahead with the first wave of lay offs July 15 if there’s no concessions won in labor contracts now taking place between the Administration and unions.

The memo ordered planning for which jobs will be eliminated, and which employees have seniority to be bumped into other jobs, to begin later Monday.

State worker unions are currently in the middle of contract talks with the Cuomo Administration; their contracts expired on April 1.

The governor has said he needs $450 million dollars in “workforce savings,” built into the budget, or he will have to lay off employees.

The President of the Civil Service Employees Association, Danny Donohue, reacted angrily.

“It’s a crime,” he said. “What it really means is that government is failing.”

CSEA spokesman Steve Madarasz, said if Cuomo is trying to put pressure on the unions to settle their contracts, it’s a threat that could backfire on the governor.

“When they announce lay offs and start moving forward with them, the CSEA member out there is going to take a look and say ‘why are we making concessions when they are going to laying people off anyway?’,” Madarasz said.

Donohue and Madarasz said they have presented counter offers and concessions to Cuomo’s labor negotiators, but don’t want to discuss them in public. In the past, unions have suggested getting rid of private contractors to save costs. The private entities often charge more than it would cost to do the work in house, they say. They’ve also suggested buying prescription drugs for the state’s health plan from Canada, where prices are lower.

The lay off news comes a day after Governor Cuomo presented a new pension plan for state workers hired in the future. It would up the retirement age from 62 for state workers, and 57 for teachers to age 65, offer lowered benefits, and require new employees to contribute more to their pensions.  Unions were further angered. AFSCME sent a memo outlining how rising pension costs have actually stemmed from the Wall Street crash in 2008 and 2009, not because of generosity to workers. CSEA’s Donohue agreed.

“That’s bull,” Donohue said.He said the average CSEA union worker pension is around $14,000 a year.

Donohue spoke at a rally outside the Hudson River Psychiatric Center, which has been slated for closure by the Cuomo Administration, along with several juvenile justice facilities with a troubled history.

The governor will also be announcing the closing of some state prisons in the coming weeks, which will also likely result in the loss of jobs. 

Unlike governors in some states, Cuomo is not calling for an end to collective bargaining. He’s resisted calls to end some union protections like the Triborough Amendment, which states that terms of an old contract remains in effect when negotiations stall the new deadline is missed. Nevertheless, he’s been saying since his budget address, back in February, that he has to find the savings one way or the other, but will order lay offs as a “last resort”.

The union leaders say the actions in recent days feels like an “attack” on public workers - and they say it’s been very bad for worker morale.

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