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October 4, 2011


Albany’s collective bargaining confusion

E.J. McMahon

Now that the state Public Employees Federation (PEF) has rejected a proposed contract, Governor Andrew Cuomo is moving forward with 3,500 layoffs.  Or, then again, maybe not.

This article in the Albany Times Union suggests there is an 80 percent likelihood the governor and union will reach a new deal without layoffs.  The newspaper also reports that “Cuomo is demanding that any modifications [to the rejected PEF contract] have no costs.”

“No costs”?  How about those savings of “$75 million this fiscal year, $92 million next fiscal year, and almost $400 million over the contract term” that the governor was supposedly counting on?

Maybe the Times Union misunderstood what it was told, or someone in the Capitol wasn’t very clear.  Maybe the paper’s anonymous source(s) in the administration meant that any “tweaks” to the PEF contract should not reduce the net value of the concessions Cuomo had identified as his price for avoiding layoffs.  Or, then again, maybe not.  The signals at the moment are confusing, to say the least.

Meanwhile:

  • A local pol said the impact of a projected 1,149 PEF member layoffs in the Capital Region would be (wait for it) … yes, “devastating.” Which is no doubt an accurate description of the impact on affected households.  But to keep the economic impact in context: in the last three years, the Capital Region has lost 9,500 private-sector jobs, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.  And during the same period, also according to BLS, state government in Albany-Schenectady-Troy area has shed 6,200 jobs entirely through attrition and early retirement.
  • Although they have yet to agree to their own contract deal, Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) members working for the state court system are learning that they will be subject to the same change in health insurance premiums called for in a new contract ratified by CSEA’s executive branch employees last month.  The existing contract between the United Court System (UCS) and CSEA’s court unit specifies that CSEA-represented court employees receive the same health insurance benefits as executive branch workers, according to a union memo passed along by a court employee.

3 Comments »

  1. [...] http://www.nytorch.com/?p=4647 [...]

    Pingback by Albany’s collective bargaining confusion — October 4, 2011 @ 3:01 pm

  2. Let The Layoffs Begin !!!

    Comment by eatingdogfood — October 4, 2011 @ 7:38 pm

  3. Let The Layoffs Begin, Indeed—unless it is you or your brother or your neighbor getting the pink slip—then you might be of a different mind. No doubt layoff economics are complicated. For example, if one assumed that the average pay package of a PEF member was $65,000, then layoffs would conceivably save the State about $225 million per year, way more than the negotiated contract savings. Of course one would have to subtract from savings the costs of unemployment payment, perhaps medicaid costs, food stamps, etc. Also, Adam Smith would tell us that there is a lost productivity to the employer (and the employer’s customers) equal to the salary earned. The emotional cost to a person and his or her family can’t be computed in dollars I know the most cynical among us believe that state employees mostly do nothing but the fair-minded know that is not true. What is true is that the government employment rolls in New York have been shrinking for over a decade. With 3,500 more to go you might not notice, but then again, it might take longer for a trooper to get to the crime scene, maybe a bridge that was not inspected collapses, maybe your ground beef is infected or maybe you just wait 10 minutes longer in line at the DMV. Since at least 5% of any work force retires each year, and that would have meant that about 3,000 PEF employees would retire each year during the contract term, why not have a hard hiring freeze and avoid the layoffs? The savings from the layoffs reach the projected savings from the contract reductions, will the State hire the people back or are they gone forever.
    It’s easy to gleefully say “let the layoffs begin” when you are standing at a distance and you will get a paycheck next week. If you are of that mind, I hope one of those layoff families invites you over to dinner so you can see what its like on the inside. America once had a heart, not any longer I’m afraid.

    Comment by W Dennis Duggan — October 5, 2011 @ 5:37 pm

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