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Paterson seeks pay freeze, unions refuse

ALBANY - Unions representing state employees aren't about to let Gov. David Paterson strip state workers of their contractual pay raises.

Faced with an estimated $9.2 billion 2010-2011 budget deficit, Paterson renewed his calls last week for state employees to relinquish their guaranteed 4 percent pay raises.

"I cannot overstate the magnitude of the fiscal problems that we face in this state," Paterson said. "I will continue to stand up for the taxpayers, even if it means our budget is late, because a responsible budget is more important than when it is passed."

But Public Employees Federation President Ken Brynien didn't mince words about the likelihood of the 58,000 state employees he represents coming to the negotiation table.

"The PEF will not reopen its contract with the state," he said. "Until the state moves decisively to slash the use of costly consultants, PEF will not accept any demand for givebacks and we will continue to work to protect state jobs."

Paterson is seeking $250 million in concessions from state employees. He blasted union leaders for refusing to negotiate.

"I do not believe that, at a time when more than 300,000 of the hard-working New Yorkers who pay our salaries are out of a job, it is fair to continue the status quo with one segment of the workforce," Paterson said.

The PEF is among several state employee unions, including the Civil Service Employees Association, that are in the final year of a four-year contract signed under former-Governor Eliot Spitzer.

Albany expects to hand out about $480 million in raises and performance advances in the coming month as part of the agreement.

Paterson said that layoffs may be required if union concessions aren't made.

CSEA President Dan Donohue rebuked what he said were the Governor's "threats."

"It's outrageous that in a time when open communication is needed the most, this administration is leaking anonymous threats to the press instead of openly standing by the same bad ideas," Donohue said.

On Wednesday, Paterson withheld $2.1 billion in school aid on the very day it was supposed to be distributed to districts throughout the state.

A similar move in December, when he withheld $750 million from schools, resulted in a plethora of lawsuits from school administrators and teachers' unions alike.

Late last year, state employees agreed to comprehensive pension reform that grandfathered current employees but will require new hires to chip in more toward their retirement benefits.

Paterson has pledged to freeze the paychecks of all state legislators until the already-late state budget is completed.

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