State workers await fate as budget talks continue
Published 10:40 am, Thursday, May 12, 2011
HARTFORD -- Negotiators for Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and the state's 43,000 union workers went back to the bargaining table Wednesday with renewed hopes that a deal could be made to cut billions of dollars while saving thousands of union jobs.
One unit, the 7,000-member Connecticut Employees Union Independent/SEIU Local 511, canceled a scheduled Wednesday night meeting at Gateway Community College in New Haven because of the reactivated discussions.
An announcement on the local's website said the membership session "has been postponed due to the ongoing SEBAC discussions."
Matt O'Connor, spokesman for the State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition, the negotiators for the 15 major state unions, said the cancellation should not be read as evidence that a deal was imminent.
On Tuesday, the Malloy administration began the process of notifying 4,742 state employees of their potential layoff on July 1, the start of the fiscal year. There are a wide range of contractual obligations for each of the bargaining units.
For Local 511, many of whom are state Department of Transportation workers, Tuesday marked a required 10-day grace period before the Malloy administration would be allowed to issue layoff notices.
"We're back to negotiating today," O'Connor said. "Talks are continuing. We are hopeful that we reach a resolution that includes an agreement between our leaders and the administration, on a framework."
Discussions on possible union givebacks and other potential savings began on March 2, with Malloy asking for a variety of ways to cut $1 billion a year in state expenses, from additional unpaid furlough days, to higher health co-payments, salary freezes and changes in pension plans.
The savings were a key of the governor's "shared sacrifice" plan, which included $2.6 billion in higher income and sales taxes as well as fees; and $760 million in budget cuts
Details of the closed-door talks have been subject to a bipartisan gag order and even rank-and-file workers have been kept in the dark on the concessions on which they may eventually have to vote.
O'Connor said there are a variety of methods by which the individual unions would ratify any eventual deal between SEBAC and Malloy.
"I think these are hard issues," said Roy Occhiogrosso, Malloy's senior adviser. "Everybody understands the urgency. Both sides are negotiating in good faith and would like to get an agreement. We're just not there yet."