The clock is winding down on the state’s negotiations with major public-employee unions.
In an appearance on Fred Dicker’s radio show in Albany today, Cuomo said layoffs will begin in “a couple of more weeks” if the state and labor unions can’t come to a deal on how to cut $450 million in personnel costs.
“In terms of layoffs, I think we have a couple of more weeks of discussion before we actually have to start the layoffs, the way the clock works,” Cuomo said. “And look, I’ve said all along we need the savings. I really hope we can avoid the layoffs, and that’s going to be up to the negotiations at the table and it’s going to be up to the respective unions.”
The state’s budget calls for a $550 million cut in the state’s personnel costs, with $100 million of that coming from agency consolidations and facility closures in prisons and other buildings, like centers run by the Office of Mental Health. In all, the state’s budget calls for up to 9,800 layoffs if concessions aren’t made.
Both Cuomo and Stephen Madarasz, a spokesman for the state’s Civil Service Employees Association, said talks of a new labor contract continue.
“The conversations have been productive,” Cuomo told Dicker. “People are moving in the right direction, but on so many of these things … I’ve adopted a different position. I’m binary—it’s done or it’s not done. It’s total agreement or it’s not agreement, and right now there’s no total agreement, so we have no agreement.”
Madarasz characterized the talks as “strange.”
“It’s been a very unusual set of negotiations so far,” Madarasz said. “Nothing like anything we’ve experienced in 100 years of CSEA in terms of collective bargaining.”
There hasn’t been much back and forth at the negotiation table, according to Madarasz.
”(Collective bargaining) is trying to find a common ground using creative approaches to allow both sides to achieve their objectives, and we haven’t seen a whole lot of that so far in these negotiations,” he said. “It’s been a very, very different dynamic at the table, and not really what we would characterize as a real give-and-take, problem-solving approach. It’s been more just staking out positions.”
“The best that I can say is that we’re still talking, and when you’re still talking, there’s still hope,” Madarasz added.