Cuomo now open to 'tweaks' in labor contract

By Associated Press

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he's now open to "tweaks" in a state labor contract rejected by union members that could avoid nearly 3,500 layoffs.

Cuomo tells "The Capitol Pressroom" radio show that he would consider reallocating elements of the contract as long as the overall cost to taxpayers remains the same.

The Public Employees Union has said it hopes to make changes in benefits such as health care that could lower the increased cost for the lowest paid members.

Cuomo says Friday good-faith negotiations continue, although he still opposes job protections.

Cuomo had previously said the only way to avoid the layoffs was for the rank-and-file to pass the tentative contract rejected Tuesday.

Layoffs are to begin in about 20 days.

"The New York State Public Employees Federation (PEF) is prepared to meet with the state to discuss how we can alter the tentative contract agreement that our members rejected," said PEF President Ken Brynien. "I heard the governor's willingness to have open communication with us and I am encouraged the governor is willing to hear our ideas. At this time, we see no evidence to suggest that a revote would result in an different outcome.

"We are anxious to discuss with the governor's negotiators how we can reach an agreement my members are willing to ratify while preserving state services and meeting the savings the state requires.
"Our team remains in place, ready and willing to meet with the governor's negotiators. We are now in the process of making those arrangements," Brynien said.

PEF is the state's second-largest state-employee union, representing 56,000 professional, scientific and technical (PS&T) employees and other public and private employees. The contract covers the PS&T employees.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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