Gov. Dannel P. Malloy came to Manchester Friday to talk to seniors about the importance of keeping cool during hot weather, and how recently passed legislation would reduce the state’s electrical costs, but all reporters wanted to talk to him about was the increasingly tightening timeframe for the governor’s administration to strike a deal with state employees to avert massive layoffs and facility closings throughout the state.
On what could turn out to be the hottest day of the year, the line of questioning seemed appropriate, as Malloy has been increasingly turning up the heat on the state’s unions in recent days, sending out droves of and repeatedly stating that he was willing to “clarify” an earlier concession agreement his administration had negotiated with the state’s more than 45,000 unionized employees, but that he had no intentions of negotiating a new one.
“This needs to be gotten done. We are moving ahead with all the budget reductions,” Malloy told a roomful of reporters at the Manchester Senior Center early Friday afternoon. “In a matter of days, some of the earliest people who received notices will be out of employment and we need to move forward.”
The governor’s $40.1 billion biennium budget, which took affect July 1, still has a $1.6 billion hole in it stemming from a failed attempt to wrest that amount in concessions from unionized state employees already under contract. When rank and file union members failed to ratify the agreement in a series of votes in June, Malloy announced that he would push forward with , as well as , in an effort to plug the gap.
Union leaders met Monday, July 18, and to lower the threshold for passage of an agreement to a simple majority – previously, approval required at least 80 percent of all union employees and 14 or more of the state’s 15 unions – and Malloy issued a statement soon after hailing the change as “good news” and stating that it “shouldn’t take more than a couple of days to have a clarified agreement that’s ready to be voted on by all state employees.”
As of Friday afternoon that agreement appeared no closer than it did on Monday, and Malloy’s office announced that 1,851 layoff notices had been issued to state employees as of Thursday morning, with some facing termination as soon as next week.
“I don’t have a view of what’s causing this to take longer than it should,” Malloy said Friday, adding, “I suspect that people would like to renegotiate the aspects of this contract, but I made it clear from the start we’re not going to renegotiate these concessions. We’ll clarify, and then we’ll address the problem that was created by being after July 1, but that’s about it.”
Matt O’Connor, a spokesman for the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition’s Web site, which represents the bulk of Connecticut’s unionized state employees, told Patch Friday that discussions with Malloy’s administration were continuing.
O’Connor, who could not be reached by phone Friday, referred to a membership update posting on the SEBAC’s Web site from Thursday afternoon as the only news he could provide on the subject.
“The fight against the job cuts and service shutdowns in the governor’s alternative budget plan will continue until there is a resolution. The leaders of our unions take seriously their responsibility to represent their members’ interests. And they know that their members take their responsibility to serve the public with equal seriousness,” the posting stated, which was titled: “No Agreement Reached Yet as Talks Between Union Leaders and Administration Continue.”
Malloy told reporters Friday that he hoped to reach an agreement with the unions, not just to avoid the layoffs and closures this year, but to restructure a system that he said Connecticut could no longer afford.
“We’re not just talking about layoffs this year, we’re talking about layoffs this year, and the year after, and the year after, because we cannot afford, under the current system, maintaining the current state employment ranks,” Malloy said, adding, “…We’re not renegotiating. We’ll clarify – I believe we have clarified – and I think people have a decision to make whether they want a Connecticut that moves forward and addresses itself and its problems through a negotiated process, or whether we don’t get to that point and other steps have to be taken.”