(Updates with union comment in sixth paragraph.)
Sept. 30 (Bloomberg) -- New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he wasn’t “bluffing” when he threatened to fire 3,500 members of the state’s second-largest public union after the rank-and- file rejected a contract he negotiated with their leaders.
“If they thought we were bluffing, we’re going ahead with the layoffs, and it wasn’t a bluff,” Cuomo said today in a radio interview on WCNY in Syracuse. He said he hopes the Public Employees Federation holds a re-vote on the contract, which freezes pay for three years, increases worker health-care contributions and mandates unpaid days off.
Cuomo also said he is “open to tweaks” to the contract that are revenue-neutral and may allocate benefits differently among workers.
Members of the PEF, which represents 56,000 professional, scientific and technical employees, opposed the contract by a 19,629-to-16,906 vote, the union said Sept. 27. The rejected accord was similar to one approved in August by the 66,000- member Civil Service Employees Association, the state’s biggest union.
The contract rejection represented a defeat for Cuomo’s effort to win labor acceptance of cost-cutting measures under the threat of dismissals. Cuomo, a 53-year-old Democrat, gave the unions the choice as part of his fiscal 2012 budget, which includes $450 million in labor-cost savings and no new taxes.
‘Ready and Willing’
In an e-mailed statement following the interview, PEF President Ken Brynien said the union was “ready and willing” to meet with the governor’s negotiators, and that the arrangements to do so were being made.
“At this time, we see no evidence to suggest that a re- vote would result in a different outcome,” he said. “We are anxious to discuss with the governor’s negotiators how we can reach an agreement my members are willing to ratify.”
PEF’s leadership approved the contract 2-1 after months of negotiations, Cuomo said. It marked the first time in the union’s 34-year history that the rank and file rejected an accord recommended by its leadership, the union said.
--Editors: Mark Schoifet, Pete Young
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