PEF and Cuomo reach a new deal
STEPHON JOHNSON Amsterdam News Staff | 11/10/2011, 10:39 a.m.
For state workers, it looks like layoffs have been averted and they finally have a contract.
The Public Employees Federation voted 27,718 to 11,645 to say yes to a labor agreement put on the table by New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo, avoiding 3,500 layoffs in the process.
As part of the new agreement, there will be no salary increases for three years and a raise of 2 percent in 2014. The deal also includes a reimbursement for nine furlough days that is payable at the end of the agreement.
"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," said PEF President Ken Brynien in a statement. "This agreement preserves our members' jobs and the services they provide. During this economic downturn, the state's citizens are more dependent on these vital services than ever in the wake of the flooding earlier this year.
"We are certain the governor understands the sacrifice our members have agreed to accept and recognizes the value PEF members and other public employees provide to the citizens of the state," Brynien continued.
Last week, Cuomo reacted to the vote during a news conference in Albany, saying it was a result of calm negotiations. "These are times of hyperbole and rhetoric and emotion and fear and frustration," he said. "And if you're not careful, the frustration and anxiety can win the day. This is slowing people down, providing people with information, removing the emotion [so that] cooler heads prevail for a better outcome for all."
In October, the AmNews reported that the PEF had rejected a deal with Cuomo that would have frozen wages and cut benefits. Without an agreement, the governor had threatened to lay off 3,500 employees. The first batch of layoffs was supposed to happen last month but was suspended until the union voted. Now the layoffs won't happen at all.
So what does Brynien think is the governor's next step?
"We now call on the governor, as part of his efforts to increase the efficiency of state government, to direct his attention to areas where PEF has highlighted cost savings," he said. "These areas include the elimination of wasteful contracting-out and reducing the state's excessive authorities, commissions and public benefit corporations that make up the state's shadow government."