Votes for PEF contract to be counted this afternoon

Nov 3, 2011

The votes will be counted for the second time this fall on a contract offer between the state worker union, the Public Employees Federation, and Governor Andrew Cuomo after the first offer was rejected. This time, if the contract is rejected, the governor has vowed to follow through with 3500 lay offs.

The votes will be counted for the second time this fall on a contract offer between the state worker union, the Public Employees Federation, and Governor Andrew Cuomo after the first offer was rejected. This time, if the contract is rejected, the governor has vowed to follow through with 3500 lay offs.

The leadership of the Public Employees Federation has gone all out to try to convince the 56,000 PEF members to approve the contract this time around, after a resounding rejection of the initial contract
back in September. They’ve distributed flyers in state office complexes, rented out a billboard in downtown Albany, and PEF President Ken Brynien issued a video message.

“As President of PEF, I’m going to share with you why I’m recommending that you vote yes,” Brynien says in the message, who lists job security as the number one reason.

PEF spokeswoman Darcy Wells says PEF leaders want to save the 3500 jobs targeted for elimination,   but also believe the second offer is a better deal for members.

“There were several improvements,” said Wells. “There’s some significant changes in this revised contract.”

After the first contract was voted down, the Cuomo Administration and PEF Leadership agreed to some “tweaks”.  Among them, nine proposed furlough days would be converted to essentially a pay lag, workers would be paid for those days when the contract ends in four years. The resulting decrease in pay over the first two years of the contract would not affect worker’s pension rates.  And anyone who
retires before the contract ends  would be reimbursed for the furlough days.  Health benefits would rise in cost on a sliding scale, and workers could trade unused vacation time to help pay for premiums.

Governor Cuomo says this is his last, best offer to the union. He says the outcome is now in the members’ hands.

“It’s up to PEF,” Cuomo said.

After the rejection of the first contract offer on September 27th, Cuomo’s aides promptly informed nearly 3500 PEF members that they would be targeted for lay offs.  The remaining 50,000 union members
now know that they will keep their jobs, for now at least, even if they vote against the contract. Even with the “tweaks”, having no contract at all can be a better deal for many who are due to receive
scheduled step pay increases. They will occur even if there’s no new labor agreement. The contract offer would freeze salaries for three years.

Cuomo postponed the initial lay off day of October 19th until this Friday, November 4th, in order to allow time for a second vote.  But he’s made clear that this is the last chance. If the contract is
rejected, he says the terminations will occur.

“I feel confident that we did everything we could to get PEF to a place for a successful outcome,” the Governor said. “And I feel good about the effort.”

PEF spokeswoman Wells says there’s no way of knowing whether union members are listening to Cuomo’s admonitions or the pleas of their leaders, though she notes a higher percentage of members are voting this time around and over 36,000 ballots, or 70% of the eligible members, have already voted.

“I’m sure they’re getting more ballots in as we speak,” wells said.

Wells says there is still time for members to get their votes in, but just barely, if they send them by overnight mail.  On Thursday, after the 9 AM post comes in, the ballots will be counted electronically by
the American Arbitration Association in New York City. She says the electronic ballot reading should go fairly quickly. The results will be known by mid afternoon, when it will be determined whether 3500
state workers lose their jobs or not.