New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference...

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference in the Hall of Governors at the Capitol in Albany. (June 22, 2011) Credit: AP

In talks over money, big or small, the mood can swing quickly between respect and contempt.

On June 8, the leader of the largest state public employees union sarcastically "congratulated" Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo for "another grandstand play for the attention of his millionaire friends at the expense of the real working people of New York."

Danny Donohue, president of the Civil Service Employees Association, was reacting then to Cuomo's proposal to thin the pension system for future employees.

But the drive toward a new "Tier 6" pension plan has been put off for this legislative session. And on Wednesday, Donohue, representing 66,000 state agency employees, spoke in a different tone -- after reaching a hard-fought contract agreement with the Cuomo administration.

Donohue's latest message: "These are not ordinary times and CSEA and the Cuomo administration have worked very hard at the bargaining table to produce an agreement that balances shared sacrifice with fairness and respect."

After intense behind-the-scenes drama, the outcome included three years without an across-the-board salary hike; a $1,000 one-shot lump sum bonus starting April 1, 2013, and 2 percent increases payable in 2014 and 2015.

But the pact also preserves all-but-automatic pay increases, known as step increases and longevity payments, that unionized state workers receive. For each of the first seven years of employment, the salary goes up from "hiring rate" to "job rate." There will also remain annual lump-sum "longevity" payments that follow.

The annual cost of step increases overall currently totals $146 million, according to the conservative Empire Center for New York State Policy.

Cuomo's operations director, Howard Glaser, also negotiated first-time furloughs -- five unpaid days off in fiscal year 2011 and four in fiscal 2012. And, health-benefit premiums paid by employees will increase at rates that vary by job grade.

CSEA thus avoided layoffs.

The contract, which is expected in the end to set a pattern for other state unions, would on Long Island affect about 11,000 employees.

Nick LaMorte, president of the Commack-based CSEA Region 1, said eight of 26 locals he administers represent state employees, the heads of which support ratification. "The Long Island leadership is on board because we don't want to see 9,800 people lose their jobs. We're not ecstatic but that doesn't mean we're not going to be supportive . . . What's the alternative?"

In the end, the administration didn't push sweeping change in labor statutes, as fiscal hawks proposed.

The union made some concessions. The state made some progress toward budget balance.

On Wednesday, Cuomo called the union leadership "tenacious . . . in the best sense of the word." He said of the pact: "It's a win for the administration. It's a win for members of the CSEA, and most importantly, it's a win for the state of New York."

He summed it up as "a win-win-win situation."

For those who found themselves less than pumped, however the deal marked more of a "didn't-lose-as-much-as-we-could-have" situation.