© 2024 WRVO Public Media
NPR News for Central New York
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Unions react with anger at Cuomo's ultimatum on layoffs

By Karen Dewitt/WRVO's Capitol Correspondent

June 13, 2011


ALBANY, NY – 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.

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

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

State worker unions are currently in the middle of contract talks
with the Cuomo Administration; their contracts expired on April 1st.
The governor has said he needs $450 million dollars in "workforce
savings", built into the budget, or he will have to lay off

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

CSEA spokesman Steve Madarasz, says 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?'," said Madarasz.

Donohue and Madarasz say 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 agrees.

"That's bull," Donohue said.

He says the average CSEA union worker pension is around $14,000 a

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 says 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".

But 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.