State labor unions balking at request for ‘give backs’

- FILE - Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy delivers his State of the State address, February 3, 2016 (WTNH)

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — The unions representing thousands of state employees are balking at Governor Malloy’s request for ‘give backs’ to help avoid layoffs. The unions’ top negotiator says he does not have the authority to begin those talks, even though the Governor says layoffs will begin in just 12 weeks.

Governor Malloy is out of state for a political speech in Georgia, but made his budget director available to say that the rejection of give backs by the state employee unions would result in thousands of layoffs. “I don’t see any way around it short of…umm…well frankly I don’t see any way around it right now,” said Ben Barnes, whose technical title is Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management.

The top negotiator for the ‘State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition’ commonly called SEBAC, says he doesn’t have the authority to open the contracts and discuss any give backs. The current deal on benefits was signed in 2011, and doesn’t expire for another six years.

The Malloy administration says the union leadership should quickly get a vote on starting give back negotiations from the rank and file. Added Barnes, “We think that making some concessions on benefits is a good way to do less cuts on vital public services and state employees.”

Republicans in the Assembly, who proposed furlough days as away to avoid layoffs, are supporting the Democratic Governor. Sen. Len Fasano (R-North Haven) the State Senate Minority Leader saying, “I fully support the Governor. I think the Governor’s doing the right thing by calling the unions in. I think SEBAC needs to come to the table, not play games.”

The Minority Leader in the House, Rep. Themis Klarides (R-Derby) saying, “They’ve all got their heads in the sand, I mean the unions’ reaction was shocking to me because it was almost as if this is the first they’ve heard of it.” The Speaker of the House’s office issuing a statement noting that he was the first legislative leader to encourage talks between the Governor and SEBAC on benefits savings six weeks ago.

One of the unions in the coalition, AFT Connecticut, issued a statement saying the Governor should “stop using state employees as a punching bag and start asking CT’s CEO’s and hedge fund managers to pay their fair share.”

The Republican leader in the House says that it’s time for a new ‘Twitter hashtag.’ Rep. Klarides saying it should be, “No freaking money…hashtag, nofreakingmoney.”

The unions apparently think raising taxes again is the way to solve this latest round of red ink, but it’s clear that after the embarrassment of GE leaving the state and the fact that this is an election year, that will not be on the table.

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