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Cattaraugus unions reject wage concessions

Cattaraugus County's largest union has rejected forgoing 3 percent raises next year in talks with legislators, and it could lead to layoffs, officials are predicting.

Legislature Chairman Michael T.O'Brien, R-Portville, on Wednesday said talks began several weeks ago between the Legislature's Labor Relations Committee and their negotiator, Jeffery Swiatek from Hodgson Russ, and unit presidents.

Representatives of five local bargaining units were involved. The contracts represent about 1,000 of the county's 1,400 employees. Six of the seven contracts do not expire until Dec. 31, 2012. Legislators asked the units to forgo previously negotiated 3 percent raises for next year to avoid layoffs.

O'Brien said to achieve a 2012 county budget that meets the state's 2 percent property tax cap, substantial reductions of services and employees will be necessary. He said forgoing raises next year by unit members would have netted the county $1.4 million. In return, the county promised no layoffs in 2012.

Earlier this month, legislators rescinded any raises for other county workers, including management employees, department heads and nonbargaining unit workers.

At this time, O'Brien said no specific reductions in the work force have been identified as work on the 2012 budget continues.

O'Brien said, "The layoff of employees as well as a reduction of services will be necessary" to produce a balanced budget for 2012.

The tentative budget is to be released Nov. 9, the day after elections in which the 21 legislators will be on the ballot.