State Union Rejects Offer to Avoid Layoffs

Paterson is seeking to reopen contracts to gain concessions

New York's largest union says it won't accept an offer floated this week by the Paterson administration to avoid mass layoffs by accepting smaller raises and a no-layoff guarantee for two years.
Civil Service Employees Association spokesman Stephen Madarasz says the union can't reopen its contract because it would set a debilitating precedent. Madarasz confirmed the proposal was offered this week but said leaking it is a political ploy to build public support against the union.
Errol Cockfield, spokesman for Gov. David Paterson, didn't immediately comment.
Paterson is seeking to reopen contracts to gain concessions. He wants state unions to give up this year's 3 percent raises as a way to avoid as many as 8,900 layoffs. He has for months sought concessions to deal with billions of dollars deficits in a fiscal crisis he blames on the Wall Street's meltdown, the recession and years of overspending by Albany.
"It's not about substance,'' Madarasz said. "We can't open the contract. If we open one contract, what's to stop every other employer to say, `We want to reopen the contract'? You set a precedent. You can never again do good-faith bargaining. It's a matter of principle as well as practicality."
He said Paterson, suffering his lowest poll ratings, is trying to score political points by getting tough with the public worker unions.
A spokeswoman for the Public Employees Federation union didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
The CSEA and PEF on Wednesday held a news conference saying the governor refused to consider other cost-saving options and apparently has a political interest in extracting jobs from the unionized work force.
The offer was already floated when the unions held the news conference.
Asked if union members knew of the offer, Madarasz said itdidn't matter because the members support the union leaders.
"That's almost a moot point," he said. "Our members say 'Hold the line, stand strong."

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