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Correction Workers To Fight Concessions

by Christine Stuart | Mar 23, 2011 9:26pm
(10) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Labor, State Budget

It’s one of the largest bargaining units in state government and it’s one of three which declined to sign off on the 2009 concession package negotiated by the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition and former Gov. M. Jodi Rell.

Two years ago, while a majority of their fellow union workers agreed to wage freezes, furlough days, and reductions in health care benefits, nearly 5,000 front-line correction workers, who put their lives on the line every day, received wage increases when the General Assembly refused to vote on an arbitrated agreement.

By not agreeing to the same package their union brothers and sisters did the corrections workers received no lay-off protections. They hedged their bets and won. Not one of them was laid off.

This year the correction workers contract is set to expire at the same time union leadership is in discussions with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration over the contract for the entire unionized state employee workforce. Malloy has said he needs $1 billion a year in concessions from the more than 45,000 state employees.

But unlike other bargaining groups, correction workers, who are understaffed due to years of early retirement offers, have a lot of leverage and the recent minutes of Local 391’s executive board meeting may prove just how difficult things may get for the administration.

The minutes of the board meeting spell out in capitalized bold letters after the words SEBAC concessions: “NO, NO, NO!”

“The members have spoken and we have heard them loud and clear: No!,” the minutes read.

Roy Occhiogrosso, Malloy’s senior communications adviser, said “it’s disappointing to see that kind of rhetoric at the same time we’re being told the unions are negotiating in good faith.”

But Larry Dorman, spokesman for both AFSCME Council 4 and SEBAC, said the minutes simply reflect the concerns and frustration of the front-line correction workers.

“Those concerns and frustrations are legitimate, and a product of years of disregard and disrespect from previous administrations,“ Dorman said. “But at the same time, having a local union articulate those concerns in no way negates the good faith discussions SEBAC is having with the Malloy administration.”

“We are a democratic union,“ Dorman added. “Our members have a right to speak their mind.”

Ultimately regardless of what happens during the closed-door negotiations, the bargaining groups that belong to SEBAC will have an opportunity to vote up or down any agreement that comes out of those negotiations. At the moment both sides are calling them discussions when it comes to SEBAC, but it’s fair to say the correction workers contract is under negotiation. 

Dorman said every bargaining group has the right to change their minds at any point during the SEBAC process. He said that’s why it’s so important the Malloy administration listen to the front-line workers who know where to find savings and efficiencies.

Malloy’s administration seems to have its own ideas about where the Corrections Department can save money.

Malloy’s budget decreases the overall Corrections Department budget by about $43.6 million in the first year and about $72.4 million in the second year. Those reductions are coupled with policies meant to further reduce the state’s prison population, such as allowing certain inmates to earn credits toward early release.

Already the state’s prison population which peaked in 2008 after Rell banned parole, is currently down to its lowest levels in a decade and the more it declines the less leverage the bargaining group may have with their own contract negotiations.

In 2009 the correction workers contract provided for 3 percent general wage increases in the first year which in some cases were as high 6.5 percent based on step increases. The following two years were 2.5 percent increases.

According to the March 16 minutes of the executive board meeting, “Keep what we have, no givebacks!”

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(10) Comments

posted by: Amazed | March 23, 2011  10:07pm

Surprised?  I’m not.  Let’s face it Gov. Malloy’s “shared sacrifice” doesn’t include the greedy unions.

Sure, some of the rank and file members would prefer to do the right thing and help the state but the higher-ups will not give anything back, choosing to believe they’re better than the rest of us and deserve even more.

I don’t believe the unions are entirely to blame but everyone needs to pitch in if we plan to get out of this mess.

The real fix needs to come from the state itself. Malloy and the legislature MUST cut spending.

It’s pretty simple- if you can’t afford it you can’t buy it.

posted by: ... | March 24, 2011  1:44am

...

Every group needs to put in some. Especially those who have seen modest increases in their pay and benefits over the past few years.

Unfortunately this state came to the Recession at a time when spending had hit huge increases under the Legislature and Governor Rell. Now it is Malloy’s job to find where those cuts can come from and concessions as well. So far about 800 million over two years in actual cuts people fail to read in the paper or hear on the TV.

But of course there should be more, always more if possible.

posted by: Specter | March 24, 2011  7:30am

I’m not surprised by this. It is a powerful group. Understaffed? Maybe. I know for a fact that a lot of overtime is worked by COs. But I also know for a fact that there is a lot of wasted time while on the job - reading books, newspapers and magazines; playing crossword puzzles other games; studying for school endeavors; sleeping; etc. The question becomes how to make it all more efficient - I realize that there has to be a minimum mandatory staff level in case something happens…on the other hand I hate seeing someone get paid $37 (and up) per hour on overtime to do crossword puzzles.

posted by: B. Hebee | March 24, 2011  8:42am

“Shared Sacrifice” is starting to mean; everyone pays but me. There will be no decisive action taken to right our State in this Legislative Session. This Legislature is not up to the task. They LIKE the way things are. Why wouldn’t they? We reward their arrogance and incompetence by voting these cowards back into office again and again!

posted by: Mansfield1 | March 24, 2011  9:50am

Overtime for CO’s generally mandatory due to lack of staffing.  Which is really expensive for the State but allows Management to crow about the “lean” the workforce numbers.  These people may seem tough but they took a lot of zero years in the 90’s from Rowland and again in ‘03 got shafted on a contract.  Plus they work a beat that I could never do, with people that I’d never want to be around.  Average life expectancy of CT Correctional Officers?  58.  Not an easy job.

posted by: What what what? | March 24, 2011  9:51am

Being a state employee is not as lucrative or glamorous as you think.
 
Four years ago I moved from the private sector to a state job. 

Three of those four years brought no raises, furlough days, and a 3% pay-cut.

posted by: belltor | March 24, 2011  11:23am

State employees have been making concessions since the Weicker administration. Taking zero pay increases and also taking furlough days.
This was done again under Rowland and Rell and now Malloy is asking for a pound of flesh.
I believe that shared sacrifice is a misnomer because you have to look at how much each group is being asked to share.
45,000 state employees are being asked to kick in 2 billion and the rest of the state tax payers, individuals and corporate are being asked for 1.5 billion.
Now that may be shared but it ain’t fair or equal.
Plus the state employees have to pay their 2 billion and their share as taxpayers.

posted by: goldwing | March 24, 2011  3:49pm

You want to save the state tons of money?  Close down the 24 hour Judicial Marshal facilities.  All they do is babysit people who have just been arrested from Hartford and New Haven while they wait overnight for their arraignment.  Why can’t Hartford watch their own prisoners overnight?  Do you have any idea how much it cost to staff a lockup for 24/7/365?  And some nights there are not any arrestees to watch so you have a bunch of people sitting around doing nothing.  NOTHING!  The state could save millions by closing these two lockups and having them only open when the courts are open.  After all, Judicial Marshal’s are not corrections officers as evidenced both by their training and their pay.

posted by: hawkeye | March 24, 2011  5:27pm

belltor:  “Without union concessions, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, “is completely free to tax the pants, off of state taxpayers!”

Malloy really doesn’t care, as he says “he needs the unions to reelect him in 2014!”

He wants to continue to be a career politician!

posted by: mitchellrbeck | March 24, 2011  8:48pm

I am STUNNED that the unions are telling Governor Imbecile to shove it. Who could ever have possibly have seen that one coming.

This is all part of the deception that the Democrats and Governor Imbecile planned from the get-go. Give the appearance that they tried to get union concessions which they knew weren’t coming, and then sock it to the middle class and wealthy so they could give more money away and spend, spend, spend!