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LEGISLATORS SET TO OPPOSE DELAY IN PAY HIKE

The Erie County Legislature is prepared to shoot down County Executive Gorski's plan to delay 1991 pay increases for the county's blue-collar workers.

The Democratic majority caucused in an undisclosed location Wednesday to discuss Gorski's plan to postpone a 4.75 percent raise for members of Local 1095, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Gorski says that delay would save the county $32,000 and affect 2,000 county employees.

Legislative sources said there was virtually no support for disrupting the pay increase schedule included in the three-year pact.

Majority Leader Leonard R. Lenihan, D-Town of Tonawanda, said the Gorski plan faces "tough sledding" at today's legislative session.

"We heard from AFSCME leadership, and they had some very harsh words for the pay-raise delay," Lenihan said. "We're sympathetic with the administration's desire to keep the 1991 budget balanced, but there may be a better way to do it."

Buffalo Democrat Michael A. Fitzpatrick said the proposed delay in the pay increase is "one of the most asinine ideas" he has ever heard.

Fitzpatrick, a professional labor contract negotiator with the Ironworkers union, called the proposal a slap in the face of good-faith negotiations.

"You don't negotiate a contract and then turn around and say, 'Sorry fellas, our financial situation has changed,' " he said. "I'm not going to vote to impose this thing on them. This is completely ridiculous."

Several other legislators said they were apprehensive about asking union workers to wait until April 1 for a pay boost, while their signed contract says their pay increase comes Jan. 1.

Buffalo Democrat David M. Manz questioned whether labor law permits the Legislature to impose the change without the union's permission.

"I'm not comfortable with this," he said. "I don't see it going anywhere." Gorski sent lawmakers a letter Tuesday outlining the pay-freeze plan.

He said the delay until April 1 would give the administration in pay hike
more time to formulate a long-term plan to absorb the just-approved $7 million cut in state aid.

Gorski said he was aware of the misgivings but is sticking with his plan.

"We can't pretend it's business as usual in the face of $7 million in state cuts," Gorski said. "That would be irresponsible."

"We're asking for a relatively small sacrifice -- a three-month delay on a pay raise with full retroactive pay on April 1 -- that's not violative of the collective-bargaining agreement, in my mind."

When the three-year contract was negotiated in October no one could have guessed the state would be facing a $1.5 billion deficit and the county would lose millions of dollars in aid this year and next year, Gorski said.

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