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By Tom Precious

NEWS ALBANY BUREAU

ALBANY – A month after abandoning a toll increase plan that came under intense criticism, the state’s Thruway Authority will start moving Friday to lay off 234 unionized workers.

Officials could not provide the geographic breakout of the firings that will hit members of three unions, most of them from the Civil Service Employees Association.

The layoffs will affect 142 Thruway workers and 42 employees at the state’s Canal Corp., which runs the canal system spread across upstate and is an arm of the Thruway Authority.

“The Thruway Authority and Canal Corp. face ongoing fiscal challenges and further budget savings are necessary and that requires us to look at our workforce cuts,’’ said agency spokesman Dan Weiller.

CSEA officials said it is no surprise the layoffs are coming at a time when the union and Thruway have not been able to reach a new labor contract for CSEA workers.

The layoffs also affect members of the Teamsters, which represent toll collectors, and a small number of Public Employees Federation members.

“Gov. [Andrew M.] Cuomo needs to understand that threatening layoffs, putting dedicated workers out on the street and undermining the state Thruway and canal operations is a lousy way to promote a jobs agenda,’’ said CSEA President Danny Donohue. “The governor should stop blaming workers for every situation and knock off the strong-arm tactics. He needs to keep people working if he wants any credibility on economic development.”

The Thruway and Canal Corp. employ a total of 2,968 people. The layoffs will save the agency $20 million annually and hit across 60 different job titles. With civil service bumping rights, the layoffs are expected to occur April 1.

The scuttled toll increase was to be worth about $90 million; the governor’s 2013 budget plan diverts $60 million that the Thruway now pays for state police coverage of its road system back onto the state’s general fund.

Salaries and benefits make up about 60 percent of the agency’s operating budget.

email: tprecious @buffnews.com