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Cuomo, union negotiators continue talks

ALBANY -- With the deadline for thousands of state workers to be off the payroll less than two weeks away, negotiators for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the Public Employees Federation are continuing talks. But there's no guarantee the sides will reach an agreement on an altered contract that members would have to ratify.

"We're in ongoing conversations," Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto said late Friday afternoon. "We're talking to them. We're going back and forth, exchanging ideas." Vlasto wouldn't expand on details of the talks.

PEF's website on Friday informed members only that, "Negotiations with the state regarding changes to the contract continue."

Word of the talks surfaced after PEF president Ken Brynien on Wednesday said they had shared with the state a set of "broad parameters" for potential changes to the state's offer.

During a news conference Thursday, Cuomo didn't rule out the possibility of a shorter contract than the five-year deal that PEF members voted down 19,629 to 16,906 last month.

Following the vote, union leaders said members objected to the length of the contract, which was a year longer than typical state agreements.

After the vote, the Cuomo administration began sending out the first of nearly 3,500 layoff notices, saying they needed to find budget savings through job cuts if union members wouldn't agree to contractual givebacks.

The contract called for three years with no raises and higher health care costs, although there was also a $1,000 bonus and 2 percent raises in years four and five.

Members of the state's largest union, the Civil Service Employees Association, approved a similar deal in August. In return, they haven't been targeted for any budget-driven layoffs. CSEA has about 66,000 largely blue-collar members while PEF represents some 56,000 technical and white-collar employees.

The clock is ticking for almost 3,500 who have or will receive 21-day notices.

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