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July 23, 2010

"No layoffs" umbrella does not protect all

Lost in the discussion of the Paterson administration's threatened layoffs is the fact its "no layoffs" pledge (if legal) applies to only two public employee unions.

A year ago, the Paterson administration signed agreements with the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) and Public Employees Federation (PEF) that it would not lay off their members through December 31, 2010 (here and here). In exchange, the unions agreed not to oppose a meek pension reform that did not affect their current members.

The memoranda of understanding were signed by union leaders and John V. Currier, deputy director of the Governor's Office of Employee Relations on July 22, 2009.

However, Governor David Paterson made no mention of such a forthcoming promise in his June 5, 2009 press release announcing an agreement not to go ahead with 7,000 layoffs in 2009. Media accounts no mention an 18-month "no layoff" agreement. The Paterson administration eventually released the July pacts under the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL).

Legal experts within the Paterson administration argue the "no layoffs" agreements are not legally binding.

While the pacts--legal or not--apply to the state's two largest unions, they do not protect Executive Branch employees represented by:

  • United University Professions (State University professors and professional staff);

  • Communication Workers of America (graduate students and teaching assistants);

  • District Council 37 (rent control employees);

  • NYS Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association (NYSCOPBA);

  • NYS Law Enforcement Officers Union (nonpolice security personnel);

  • NYS Police Investigators Association (State Police investigators); and

  • Police Benevolent Association of the NYS Troopers (troopers and supervisors).
Leaders of the seven unions no doubt know their members are covered by the "no layoffs" promise. Publicly, they have kept a low profile while state Budget Director said Wednesday that possible layoffs are on the table.
"I don't think we can get to the $250 million just through the early retirement program, but I think we want to see where we are with that program over the next week (or) 10 days, where we think savings are," Megna said. "And then after that, I think we need to sit down with the governor...and decide if we need to take further actions, including layoffs."
Also not affected by the "no layoffs" pledge are employees of the Judiciary and Legislature. Neither branch publicly has called for layoffs.


Posted by Lise Bang-Jensen

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