ALBANY -- A federal judge on Wednesday temporarily blocked Gov. David Paterson's order to furlough 100,000 workers without pay for one day each week.
U.S. District Judge Lawrence Kahn said in his order that public employee unions have shown their members would be irreparably harmed if they permanently lost 20 percent of their wages or salaries during weeks they're barred from working.
The decision came late in the day, after numerous state agencies publicly announced furlough plans set to begin next week.
The furloughs were reluctantly approved by the Legislature Monday night to help keep the state solvent. The state budget is more than 40 days overdue, and negotiations among legislative leaders on how to contend with a $9.2 billion deficit have ground to a halt.
Kahn set a hearing on the dispute for May 26.
"Until we go to court, the state work force will not be making any sacrifice, and that's unfortunate," Paterson said.
Leaders of the Civil Service Employees Association, the Public Employees Federation, the United University Professions and the New York State United Teachers union sought the court order. They are suing Paterson and the Legislature, arguing furloughs violate the U.S. Constitution's protection of contracts.
Paterson ordered the furloughs of "nonessential" workers and said the move would save $30 million a week. The unions rejected requests for less severe measures, such as postponing 4 percent raises to save the state money. Paterson has taken a 10 percent cut in pay, more than $17,000, as he called for shared sacrifice during the fiscal crisis.
"We have a contract that is legally binding," said Stephen Madarasz, spokesman for the Civil Service Employees Association. "We gave them options, and they don't like our options." Principally among the alternatives to concessions was for the state to fire consultants and hire more union workers.
On Wednesday, state agencies such as Empire State College, the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Adirondack Park Agency, the New York Lottery, Department of Taxation And Finance and the New York State Division of Veterans' Affairs' Counseling Offices outlined their plans for dealing with the furloughs.
Many targeted a one-day closure for union workers on May 21, with management still reporting to work. Some agencies, such as Taxation and Finance and the DMV, noted that online services and automated phone lines would still be available. Others, like the APA and Empire State College, planned to be largely unavailable to the public for the day.