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Judge saves Suffolk guard jobs for now

Louis Re, a Sr. Security Guard for 19

Louis Re, a Sr. Security Guard for 19 years at Country of Suffolk Department of Social Services is one of 20 security guards to be laid-off and replaced by guards from a private firm. (June 7, 2012) Credit: Heather Walsh

A judge's ruling has given Suffolk's unionized security guards a temporary reprieve from impending layoffs.

State Supreme Court Justice Jeffrey Spinner yesterday granted a request from Suffolk's Association of Municipal Employees to bar County Executive Steve Bellone from abolishing their jobs July 1. The short-term restraining order means that 30 guards will remain on the payroll until at least July 11, when county attorneys will present their case.

The union is seeking a permanent injunction to block the guards' layoffs on grounds that axing them in favor of a private firm violates their collective bargaining agreement. Bellone said the county could save up to $600,000 a year by replacing municipal guards with contracted workers at a lower wage.

"We believe our contract language is clear and encourage the county to reconsider, because privatizing security guards cannot result in layoffs," union president Cheryl Felice said yesterday.

Even without guards immediately exiting the payroll, the county will lose about 230 workers next week. Administration officials say each decision they make comes back to the $530 million deficit projection, through 2013, that already assumed the layoffs.

"If we can't find savings in one part of the budget, we'll find it in another," said Bellone spokesman Jon Schneider.

Suffolk will soon choose a new private security company, with a dozen firms seeking the contract. Bronx-based Dreamland Security has a deal through August with the county to watch buildings where the union security guards would be laid off.

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