Tonawanda News

April 9, 2013

Unions blast transportation cuts

By Michael Regan
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Several hundred jobs cut last week by the New York state Thruway Authority and the Erie Canal Corp., have public employees unions decrying the move as political payback during a time of contract negotiations, while noting that dozens of those jobs will come out of the ranks of Western New York. 

Martin Latko, president of Teamsters Local 72, the union representing the employees, said of the 150 who were laid off last week, 42 came were from the Buffalo division. Latko said the state breaks down its employees into four sectors, Buffalo being one.

“These were toll takers, plow operators, things of that nature,” he said. “The Thruway Authority was bare bones and this was the result of contract negotiations.” 

Stephen Madarasz, director of communications for CSEA, the union representing Canal Corp. employees, said while he doesn’t have a “final layoff list” he believes the cuts will affect employees in “the western part of the state.”  

“You’re going to be operating shorthanded,” he said. “They’ll be more limited coverage on the locks. We don’t know what the future holds.” 

He and Latko both derided the announcement, made by the Cuomo administration last week, as a bargaining tactic that attacks middle class workers. 

“We believe this is a continuing assault on government workers,” he said. “We’re trying to reveal what he’s doing so that the public can understand. It’s very clear that the layoffs were a political message that Gov. Cuomo was trying to send.”  

CSEA President Danny Donohue said in a statement last week that the cuts “could potentially cause a serious safety hazard, particularly at a time when major storms and flooding continue to pose a real threat.”

“It’s a sad commentary that Gov. Cuomo cares more about making a political point than he does about the well being of these workers and their families, even at the expense of Thruway and canal operations,” Donohue added.

Representatives of the Canal Corporation could not be reached for comment, though an e-mail obtained by the Tonawanda News appeared to show the corporation’s director, Brian Stratton, addressing employees about the layoffs. 

“The loss of these friends and colleagues will necessitate significant changes for our organization, including a reduced operating schedule that was last employed in 1991,” Stratton wrote. “Even with this revised schedule, our resources will be strained, and our people challenged, like never before.”

Contact Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext. 4115.