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Unions' bid to join county in suit rejected

The two public employees unions that tried to join Erie County in its lawsuit against the county's control board were rebuffed late Tuesday in State Supreme Court.

Justice John P. Lane, in a written decision, found no legal standing for entry into the lawsuit by Local 1095, American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees, or Local 1000, Civil Service Employees Association.

Informed of the decision, Anthony Baynes, Erie County Fiscal Stability Authority chairman, said the judge's decision leaves County Executive Joel A. Giambra as the sole plaintiff.

"I call on Mr. Giambra to withdraw his lawsuit," Baynes said Tuesday evening. "Let's move forward and stop wasting taxpayers' money."

The two unions sought to join in the suit because of the control board's imposition of a "control period" and authorizing of a hiring freeze and approval procedure for all county contracts, including collective-bargaining agreements.

"In order to qualify," Lane wrote, the unions "must be directly affected by the outcome of the proceeding" between Giambra and the control board and must show they have been injured by the wage freeze authorization and control period.

"CSEA and AFSCME argue that imposition of a control period has harmed their respective negotiating positions with the county," Lane wrote. CSEA, whose contract expires Dec. 31, said the board "may impose a wage freeze in the future."

AFSCME's contract expired two years ago, and negotiations are at an impasse. That union argued the control board "somehow has influenced the county and the county executive to reject the recommendations of a fact-finder during the ongoing impasse."

Both unions "misunderstood" the control period, Lane wrote, because "although a control period may influence the county's bargaining position in labor negotiations, the [control board] has no standing to participate in or control these negotiations."

The unions' claims that "the possibility of a wage freeze" has harmed their negotiating postion "are speculative and premature at best," he said.

e-mail: acardinale@buffnews.com

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