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Union representing Van Duyn workers sues Onondaga County

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Union representing Van Duyn workers sues Onondaga County
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Onondaga County leaders say a move to sell its Van Duyn Home and Hospital to a private company downstate is the only way to avoid crushing costs of providing care and safeguard taxpayers. YNN's Bill Carey says the plan has now run into a legal challenge from the people working at Van Duyn.

ONONDAGA COUNTY, N.Y. -- County lawmakers heard arguments against the move, but last December, they said the county had to get out of the nursing home business.

“By voting against this measure today, you are voting for a $115 million minimum tax increase to the local tax levy. There is no question, if ands or buts about it,” said Onondaga County Legislature Chairman Ryan McMahon in December 2012.

“It's just not practical for us to continue down a road of bankruptcy for our county,” Onondaga County Legislator Michael Plochocki said.

Legislators voted to turn over Van Duyn Home and Hospital to a local development corporation. An interim move to set the stage for a sale.

In a last ditch effort to block the sale of Van Duyn to a private company, the CSEA, which represents more than 400 workers at Van Duyn, has gone to court to try to overturn the actions of the county legislature.

The union is arguing the use of the development corporation to handle the sale is illegal and designed to avoid public scrutiny of the deal. They also claim the whole concept of moving the county out of the nursing home business needed public approval.

“We feel that it was basically illegal and wrong for the county legislature to pass a budget that, basically, abolished a county department of long term care without any changes to the charter,” CSEA Spokesman Mark Kotzin said.

The union argues that the county has an obligation to offer the services of Van Duyn as a safety net for county residents. The private company due to take control has a good track record, but the union says it is not a government answerable to local residents.

Kotzin said, “We fear very strongly that, if it goes private, that quality of care will be diminished. It almost has to since they'll be looking at profit, instead of people.”

The county attorney says his office is studying the union claims, but he is not commenting on the legal action.

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