HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH)– State labor union leaders were scheduled to meet late this afternoon to consider a big concession/cost saving plan. The proposal to save $1.5 billion over the next two years in wage freezes, furlough days and health care and pension changes must be approved by the labor leaders before it can be submitted to the rank and file for a vote.
A rank and file vote by all the various union locals could take more than month, but their leaders have to okay the deal first, and that could happen tonight.
The Governor was keeping his fingers crossed on Tuesday that the deal his administration negotiated over the past six months will be approved by the labor union leaders so there can be a rank and file vote by the 40,000 union workers in the 15 different unions.
“I’m hopeful we have an agreement. We certainly have the outline of an agreement and we’ll take these one step at a time,” said Governor Malloy.
The Republican leader in the House, Rep. Themis Klarides (R-Derby), says the agreement would make structural changes to employee benefits but they don’t go far enough. “And then when you couple that with a five year extension; what you’ve done is tie the taxpayers of Connecticut, the next two Governors of Connecticut and the next five legislatures of Connecticut to this framework.”
The Republican leader in the Senate, Sen. Len Fasano (R-North Haven) also says the agreement would make structural changes in pensions and healthcare benefits. “The question: what are the numbers? And until I get the actual numbers, I cannot say whether or not I’m in favor of this or not. I’m skeptical, but I want to see the numbers.”
The Governor’s office estimates the deal would save the state $10 billion over the next decade and promises the actuarial numbers in seven to ten days with the Governor adding, “It is groundbreaking not just in Connecticut but on a national basis. It is extraordinary in its scope.”
The Democratic Speaker of the House, Rep. Joe Aresimowicz (D-Berlin), says he’s seen enough to know that if the unions go along with the deal a budget solution for the next two years is within reach, and right now it’s the only game in town.
“We’re down to a $1.6 billion dollar problem now, that’s manageable. If this evaporates we’re right back to the 2.6 to 2.7 and I haven’t seen enough good answers to get to that number.”
On Tuesday night, News 8 received the following statement from SEBAC regarding the framework that has been reached with the Malloy administration:
The State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC) voted this afternoon to open formal discussions with the Malloy administration around a framework that will save jobs and save costs to help address the ongoing revenue shortfalls that have caused Connecticut’s budget deficit.
This framework and potential savings are a clear example of why collective bargaining is so imperative for our state. Without collective bargaining, the billions of dollars in savings would not have been realized. This was an important first step as middle class workers are doing their part to help solve the budget deficit. Now is the time for legislators to ask the same of the state’s most wealthy and billion dollar corporations.
A final SEBAC agreement will rescind the layoff notices that have been issued since April, provide four years of layoff protection and extend state health care and retiree health care benefits for five years.
Within this framework, the administration must complete all unit negotiations before SEBAC can move forward towards a membership vote.
There are critics who have already come out against this framework because they believe that it does not cause enough pain for working families. These critics would undoubtedly stand against any agreement with SEBAC. Those individuals need to be reminded of the fact that state employees continue to save the state $1 billion annually through concessions.