New York Public Employees Federation Rejects Contract

AFT LeaderNet News

For the first time in the 34 year history of the New York State Public Employees Federation, members rejected their contract with the state.

“By a vote of 16,906 ‘yes’ to 19,629 ‘no,’ they have said that they deserve better,” said PEF president Ken Brynien at a union-sponsored press conference Sept. 27 at the American Arbitration Association Offices in Manhattan.

Brynien, who also is an AFT vice president, said the fact that nearly 70 percent of eligible members cast ballots, shows how involved they are and how much a part of the process they wanted to be. The five-year agreement spanning fiscal years 2011 through 2016, which would have covered 56,000 professional, scientific and technical employees, included a three-year salary freeze; five unpaid furlough days in the first year of the contract; four unpaid furlough days in the second year (to be repaid over 18 months starting in March 2016); an increase in employees’ healthcare premium costs; and layoff protection for the first two years of the agreement. Longevity awards and increments were unchanged.

Throughout negotiations, Gov. Andrew Cuomo maintained that if state employee unions, including PEF, did not accommodate his $450 million workforce savings target, there would be layoffs. PEF’s rejection of the contract could trigger a reported 3,000 layoffs.

“The cuts that have been demanded of [PEF members] in this tentative agreement were just too many,” Brynien said, “and they cut too deep.”

Brynien’s interpretation of the results was that members felt “the state should not be demanding this level of sacrifice from us while it is not demanding those same sacrifices from the wealthiest New Yorkers by extending the millionaire’s tax; they should not be demanding this level of sacrifice from its own employees when the state continues to pay high-priced outside consultants to do the work that we do—and pay those consultants in excess of what they pay us. We should not be asked to sacrifice as much while there’s continuing to be rampant waste and mismanagement in the state that could save hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Prior to publicly announcing the results, Brynien called Gov. Cuomo with two requests. First, Brynien wants PEF and state negotiators to return to the table to reach an agreement that union members can agree to and that serves the interests of the state. Second, he wants the governor to defer planned layoffs until the parties can “see if we can come to an agreement that serves everybody.”

According to Albany’s Times Union newspaper, “the defeat marks one of the first real rebukes to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.” [Kathy Nicholson]

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