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New York court system to lay-off up to 500 employees: union


New York Governor Andrew Cuomo presents his 2011-12 budget proposal in Albany, New York February 1, 2011. REUTERS/Hans Pennink
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo presents his 2011-12 budget proposal in Albany, New York February 1, 2011. REUTERS/Hans Pennink

By Dan Wiessner

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The New York State court system will lay-off as many as 500 workers in the coming weeks, according to a union memo released on Friday, as the state works to close a $10 billion budget gap.

New York state lawmakers recently passed a spending plan for fiscal year 2012 that includes across-the-board cuts to state agencies.

New York is not alone. Many cash-strapped states across the United States have been firing workers, delaying big building projects and raising taxes after the 2008 recession and financial crisis left state coffers severely depleted.

David Bookstaver, a spokesman for the court system, confirmed that layoffs are in the works but said it's too early to tell how many jobs -- or which ones -- will be lost.

"In the next two or three weeks we'll have a firm understanding of numbers," Bookstaver said.

New York is not alone in slashing expenses in its court system. Connecticut's top judge on Friday testified at a budget hearing that a proposed 10 percent cut to that state's court system could result in layoffs and courthouse closings.

Cuomo, a Democrat, has threatened 9,800 layoffs if public employee unions do not concede $450 million in savings from wages and benefits.

The New York state memo, prepared by the Civil Service Employees Association, says that no decisions have been made regarding what positions would be eliminated.

The court system currently has 15,350 employees, not including judges.

The cuts follow tense budget talks. After Governor Andrew Cuomo publicly criticized the court administration for proposing to hold spending flat, the court system agreed to a $100 million cut, but lost an additional $70 million in the final week of budget talks.

A Cuomo spokesman was not immediately available to comment on the CSEA memo, which says that some layoff notices could be sent out as early as next week, and would be effective May 4.

The freshman governor this week announced an accord with a relatively small law enforcement union, including a three-year wage freeze and increased health care contributions. But the state's two largest unions said that they rejected those proposals.

In a video message last month, State Court of Appeals Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman said that the budget cuts would have "an unprecedented impact on the court system."

"The impact of our reduced budget will hurt our ability to serve all New Yorkers, in particular those who come to our courts seeking justice," Lippman said.

The judge went on to warn of a "significant number of layoffs across a broad range of operations," as well as cuts to legal aid, town and village courts and mediation.

(Editing by Chris Sanders)

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