Mon October 17, 2011
PEF Members Will Vote on Re-Tinkered Contract
By Karen DeWitt
Albany, New York –
The executive board of the state worker union the Public Employees Federation has approved a revote on a contract with New York State, in an attempt to avoid 3500 layoffs. Union members have until November 3rd to weigh in on revised contract.
The new version, agreed to over the weekend by Governor Cuomo and union leaders, shortens the length of the contract from five years to four, allows workers to be reimbursed for nine mandatory furlough days at the end of the contract, or if they retire before then, and it allows employees to use vacation time to help pay for the increased cost of their health care benefits.
Governor Cuomo says it's now up to the union members to decide whether to accept the new terms, or lose to layoffs, 3500 of their colleagues.
"It's now up to them," he said.
The governor has agreed to post pone the planned lay offs that were to take place October 19th until November 4th. The union will count all ballots by November 3rd.
After the executive board vote, PEF President Ken Brynien urged members to approve the contract.
"I would ask my members to now reconsider," Brynien said. "We have a new agreement that better meets their needs and they should vote yes."
Brynien says in the days since the first contract was rejected on September 27th, the Cuomo Administration has changed its negotiating style. In the first round the PEF President almost never spoke to the governor. This time, Brynien says he has talked to Cuomo and State Operations Chief Howard Glaser nearly every day, and he says that improved the atmosphere of the negotiations.
Brynien says he also listened to PEF members, who suggested many of the changes to the contracts.
A small number of executive board members voted against the new proposal, saying they were tired of public workers being portrayed as scapegoats in the larger economic turmoil.
Brynien says the new agreement will preserve more jobs in next year's budget, which faces a $2 billion dollar and growing deficit, and he says he hopes members will take that into consideration when they vote.
"Today it could be you, tomorrow it could be somebody else," Brynien said.
Brynien urged union members not to "sacrifice" others out of self interest. Governor Cuomo agrees, asking for "the spirit of the collective" to prevail.
But the governor says this is the union's last chance, if the second contract proposal is voted down, he won't propose another one.