Tags: Tentative Deal in Conn. Between Gov and Unions

Tentative Deal in Conn. Between Gov and Unions

Saturday, 23 Jul 2011 10:00 AM

HARTFORD — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy of Connecticut and state employee union leaders announced late Friday night that they had reached a tentative agreement on a “clarified” labor savings and concessions deal, giving rank-and-file union members a second chance to ratify the agreement and stop thousands of layoffs.

The agreement was reached following a week of closed-door discussions.

It comes a week after Mr. Malloy, a Democrat, presented a wide-ranging, budget-balancing package to the General Assembly that included more than 6,500 job cuts and deep spending reductions that called for closing Department of Motor Vehicles branches and scrapping two car ferries across the Connecticut River, among a variety of other measures.

“I hope state employees ratify this agreement, but I am assuming nothing,” Mr. Malloy said in a statement. “If they ratify it, the vast majority of layoffs and painful spending cuts can be undone. If this agreement fails, then we’ll unfortunately have to continue to lay people off and implement the spending cuts.”

Mr. Malloy said the revised deal would save the same amount of money as the last agreement — $1.6 billion over two years. He said it also included the same cost-saving provisions, like a three-year wage freeze and changes to health and pension benefits.

But Malloy said new language made it “crystal clear” that state employees were not being put into a state-run universal health care system proposed by lawmakers known as SustiNet. He said the tentative agreement also allowed the state “to recoup the money state employees will be getting from a raise that just went into effect.”

Additionally, the latest deal changes the effective date for when state employees can retire before any of the changes take effect from Sept. 2 to Oct. 2, Malloy said.

“That’s it,” he said. “No other changes from the first agreement. “

The State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition, which represents 15 state employee unions, said the agreement also “clarifies the preservation of the State Employee Health Plan for active and retired employees.”

Some workers had voiced concern that the original deal, which included a voluntary wellness incentive program, would have rolled back many of the health insurance benefits that the approximately 45,000 unionized state workers enjoy. Some also contended that the wellness initiative was the SustiNet concept in disguise. SustiNet has not been passed by the General Assembly.

The state unions coalition said all layoff notices issued to unionized workers over the past three weeks would be rescinded if the deal was ratified.

Neither the governor nor the unions mentioned the process for ratifying the clarified agreement. It took weeks last time to finish the ratification process. This time, the unions are under a tight time constraint because some workers who have received layoff notices have only two weeks before they actually lose their jobs.

Leaders of the unions coalition voted on Monday to change its bylaws to make it easier to ratify an agreement. The original deal had died even though 57 percent of voting members approved changes to the unions’ coveted, 20-year health and retirement benefit agreement. That is because the old bylaws required 14 out of 15 unions to approve any change.

“The united effort of union leaders has produced an agreement that is not just fair for the members they represent,” the coalition said in a written statement. “It’s also good for the people they serve.”

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