Teamsters Local 72 complaint against NYS Thruway Authority

Rick Karlin
Times Union
February 27, 2013

ALBANY — The Teamsters local that represents state Thruway Authority workers has filed an unfair labor complaint alleging its members were improperly threatened with layoffs if they failed to make concessions during contract talks.

"They used the layoffs instead of negotiating," Teamsters Local 72 President Martin Latko said, referring to the authority's decision last month to eliminate about 8 percent of its workforce, or about 234 of 2,968 employees.

The Teamsters union represents toll collectors as well as maintenance and clerical workers, who account for 153 of the targeted positions.

The union filed its complaint with the state Public Employment Relations Board.

While layoff talks and tough contract negotiations have occasionally gone hand in hand, the union is arguing that in this instance a former Thruway official improperly threatened layoffs just after contracts talks had started, essentially employing it as a threat.

The union contends that amounts to bargaining in bad faith.

Oddly enough, the complaint refers to remarks that former Thruway Authority Chief of Staff Thomas Ryan made during a meeting to recognize the authority's employee of the month. At the time, Ryan said the authority could avoid layoffs if unions made contract concessions.

The Teamsters note that Ryan was not an official negotiator for the authority. And the union said his remarks were the first official word it had received about potential job losses — and they came just after contract talks had begun. "There was never any talk of layoffs (previously), nothing," said Latko.

Thruway officials insist that doesn't amount to bad-faith bargaining. "We have negotiated in good faith and will continue to do so," said Thruway spokesman Dan Weiller.

The Thruway Authority has been struggling to close budget gaps that officials blame on prior mismanagement and spending. During the summer, its leaders discussed a 45 percent increase in truck tolls. Thruway officials backed off that plan in December amid complaints that a toll increase would amount to a tax hike because the cost would be passed along in the higher costs of goods transported on the road.

But not raising tolls meant the authority had to look at other options for cost savings.

Authority officials have also been criticized for what critics have said are excessive salaries and benefits, including free health care for workers.

 


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