Brynien: State “dragging its heels” in PEF contract talks

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The president of the state’s second-largest public employees union went on the offensive this morning, accusing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration of “dragging its heels” in contract negotiations as the clock continues to wind down before 3,496 pink slips take effect.

Public Employees Federation President Ken Brynien said the union expects to receive a contract proposal from the state at some point this morning, but that wouldn’t have given the union’s leadership enough time to review it before presenting it to its 135-member executive board, which had been scheduled to meet at 1 p.m. today. That led the union to cancel the board meeting, according to Brynien.

“At this point, we’ve been going back and forth for about a week or a week and a half and there’s been some give and take on both sides, but the state’s basically been dragging its heels,” Brynien said outside of PEF’s headquarters in Albany County, where about a dozen people picketed outside to show their support for union leaders.

“Up until last night, they hadn’t given us a complete proposal to vote on. The proposal they gave us had some blanks in it, and they wanted us to have our board vote on it with some blanks and then the blanks would be filled in later. And I just can’t do that.”

Brynien said the union recently proposed a deal to the state that Cuomo’s office rejected, and that the burden now falls on the governor’s shoulders to come back with new ideas.

“Now it’s in their court. We made proposals to them,” Brynien said. “They said, ‘Well, it’s not quite what we’re willing to do. We’ll do something else.’ So where is it? We still don’t have it.”

Cuomo has said any deal with PEF can’t cost the state any more money than a tentative deal rejected by the union in September would have. When asked whether the union’s latest proposal was “revenue neutral,” Brynien said that is “up for the governor to decide.”

Even if PEF negotiators strike a deal with the Cuomo administration before the layoffs begin to take effect on Oct. 19, Brynien said it would be impossible to have the union’s 56,000 members vote by mail by that date.

While Brynien said he was originally under the impression that only a tentative agreement would have to be in place by Oct. 19, Cuomo’s office has signaled that a full rank-and-file vote would have to be completed by that date.

“If they even give us something today, a new proposal that we agree to here, we have to go get it printed up, we have to get it mailed out, we have to give people a couple of days to look at it, vote, get their votes back to us,” Brynien said. “At this point, we can’t get that done by the 19th, so we’re going to need some more time anyway.”

“If the governor is saying, ‘No, I need an actual, already voted on document by the 19th,’ that’s impossible and is a restriction that tells me he’s walking away from the negotiations because that’s just impossible to meet those objectives.”

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