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Malloy Administration Reassures Laid Off Workers in Memo

by Hugh McQuaid | Aug 1, 2011 2:10pm
(8) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Labor, State Budget

Hugh McQuaid File Photo

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy

Late last week the governor’s administration issued a memo reassuring laid off unionized state workers that they would have job security if their bargaining unit passed the revised tentative concession agreement.

The memo from Office of Policy and Management Labor Relations Director Linda Yelmini comes as state employee unions head back to the polls to cast their votes for a second time on a labor agreement meant to fill a $1.6 billion hole in the state’s budget for the next biennium.

As of last Tuesday, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration had issued more than 3,000 layoff notices since unions rejected the first negotiated agreement. Some of those soon to be or recently out of work employees have expressed concerns about what their job protection status may be when the dust settles.

If the agreement passes, permanent unionized workers laid off from the Executive Branch will get their jobs back and be protected as long as their bargaining units approve negotiated changes to healthcare and pension benefits as well as wage concessions, according to the memo.

“This means that regardless of the wording of their layoff notice/letter (e.g., lack of work, organization, etc.), the employee will be returned to work if they have been laid off prior to ratification OR their layoff notice will be rescinded, as applicable, subject to the exceptions outlined in the 2011 SEBAC Agreement,” it said.

Those exceptions include people who were laid off while still in their initial test period, those whose terms naturally expired and temp workers whose appointment expired. Also not protected are non-tenured employees who didn’t have permanent status, people in grant funded positions if the grants or funding was terminated, and part-time workers who weren’t eligible for health insurance benefits.

Though the memo addressed only Executive Branch workers, State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition spokesman Matt O’Connor said in a member update statement that the state’s other agencies have made the same guarantee.

The Malloy administration said the memo was another effort at helping state workers understand the clarified agreement they are voting on.

“The governor and his administration have said all along that they are happy to clarify provisions contained within the tentative agreement, should there be concern or questions,” said Malloy spokeswoman Colleen Flanagan.

In a statement to members, O’Connor said the memo was an attempt by the Malloy administration to quell concerns and confusion, which he said were partly due to confusion at the agency manager level and inaccurate media accounts.

But in the days since a clarified agreement was reached, union leaders have decided to have less input in media accounts, preferring instead to make the explanation of the clarified agreement an internal process.

For the union’s perspective, reporters have been largely limited to using whatever applicable material they are able to glean from member update statements posted on the SEBAC website and fliers circulating among workers.

As a result, recent coverage regarding the continued efforts to educate members and ultimately vote on a clarified labor agreement have been published with little to no comment from SEBAC or the leaders of the individual unions.

As workers continue to vote over the next few weeks, leaders are relying on informational hearings and efforts like Yelmini’s memo, which will be posted around state work areas, to help convince the requisite simple majority to support the tentative SEBAC agreement.

Individual members are also being encouraged to tell co-workers that adopting the agreement will protect jobs.

“Join the effort help your co-workers make an informed decision about the agreement to save their jobs and benefits. There are varying levels of involvement you can sign up for, depending on your willingness and ability to commit time,” O’Connor wrote in his most recent member update.

At least 83 percent of the rank and file will vote on the refined deal while at least two units which strongly approved the first agreement have opted to cast a “yes” vote without a member re-vote.

The first agreement failed in June when union bylaws required 14 of the 15 unions and 80 percent of voting members to approve in order for ratification. At that point only 57 percent of members supported it.

But in a move that drew criticism from some members, the coalition changed its bylaws last month. Now ratification only requires 8 of the 15 unions and a majority of members to vote “yes.”

The unions have until the end of this month to make a decision on the concession package before the window outlined in the budget legislation closes and whatever cuts the legislature ultimately approves become permanent.

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(8) Comments

posted by: Vote Yes!!!!! | August 1, 2011  9:04pm

Vote Yes!!!!!

Major Shmuck says,  Malloy knows the lies have FINALLY been exposed.  We need to he rid of our so called leaders.  Malloy you are worthless and weak

posted by: DrHunterSThompson | August 2, 2011  9:33am

DrHunterSThompson

I wish they would stop with the use of “clarified.” it has been abundantly clear all along. The deal is awful - it’s a huge degradation of bargained for benefits that are covered under an agreement that expires in 2017.

Vote NO! we will negotiate then.

posted by: bobinglastonbury | August 2, 2011  12:04pm

At this point, I would only suggest to prospective “no” voters, that if you go ahead and vote no, you should do so knowing that there WILL NOT be any sort of renegotiation or return to the bargain table if the revote goes down. This is certain. Prior to my retirement, I was in state service for 40+ years - wore many hats - union organizer back before collective bargaining, then later a Sr. Manager well involved in the political process…I know these players only too well.To some extent, as I warned folks before the first vote had started, if that vote went down there would be for certain a move in future years to weaken the collective bargaining process as well as reduce/eliminate other employee benefits, the “horse has been let out of the barn” and that will occur but it will be lights out and far worse if the second vote goes down as well…some folks sound like they seem to think that they will bring the state to their knees if the revote goes down but they need to understand that they are in no position now, nor will they be later to gain the upper hand with the State..if you are a prospective no voter and clearly understand this reality then go ahead and vote no but just understand that you will never win..I guarantee it…don’t shoot the messenger here - I’m just trying to pass along what is certain to happen, for better or worse…hiding behind the health/benefits 2017 agreement will only go so far - in the long run you will be left with nothing compared to what you have now or will have if the second vote goes through..

posted by: Puzzled... | August 2, 2011  1:00pm

Vote “no” and we get virtually NOTHING come the fall - no layoff protection, gutted collective bargaining rights, gutted pensions, gutted health insurance, and possibly no jobs.

posted by: rfaro2 | August 2, 2011  8:02pm

our union leaders sold us down the river time for a change in who represents us

posted by: perturbed | August 2, 2011  10:09pm

perturbed

@Glastonbury Bob—You are certainly the bearer of bad news, but I don’t hold you responsible.

However, I do have some questions for someone who sounds like they’ve been around a while. This might not help us out any, but I’m curious.

Do you think this outcome could have been mitigated if SEBAC consisted of state employee-only unions, and SEBAC worked solely on behalf of state employees?

When SEBAC was formed, were there many (even any?) member unions in which state employees were a minority?

Has the assimilation of state employee unions by national/international unions with national agendas helped or worked against Connecticut state employees’ interests?

Do you think the fact that state employees now comprise a minority of several of the larger unions has affected this particular agreement in any way?

Is there any possible way state employees can create our own unions again? Could we organize in some way so that our interests could be represented more faithfully? Is there any way to wrest even a little more influence away from SEBAC?

Or is this game completely over, SEBAC has absolute power, and SEBAC can act in their own interest from now on? Never mind the state, do we have any influence—any influence whatsoever—over SEBAC’s agenda anymore?

—perturbed

posted by: bobinglastonbury | August 3, 2011  7:24pm

to perturbed - SEBAC was originally organized to represent all state employees in matters pertaining to their health and pension benefits. The feeling was that it would be far too difficult and unwieldly for the State to negotiate health and pension benefits with every individual union. Historically there was a relatively close relationship and communiation between SEBAC leadership and the representative unions and their members. This communication was ultimately lost going into the initial vote on the SEBAC agreement in May/June. We have all read and many have posted some really good commentary on the process and the problems it caused. I think that after the revote and things move along whatever the outcome, Union membership will need to take steps via their respective union leadership to ensure that this won’t happen again in the future. The process worked in the past but in retrospect I believe that that was during a relatively simplier time and even though it seemed to many of us at that time that the issues before us were huge, they were nothing compared to what you active employees are facing nowadays. I think that SEBAC leadership felt that the unions would vote in step to approve the agreement and I know for a fact that as the voting dates drew closer and membership were questioning many aspects of the proposed agreement that SEBAC grew uneasy and that is when the revision to the by-laws discussion was born..It all comes down to communication. During the years I worked, no matter what hat I wore, I always stressed communications. Union membership must take back their unions and union leadership must regain influence with SEBAC - a lot easier said than done, but it can happen. Also, as we have seen with the DOC, and related membership, they have unique concerns and I think these folks should not be a part of the balance of the SEBAC unions. They should probably be represented as a separate block. Finally, in my opinion the assimilation of our state employee unions by the big nationals probably has not worked against us. I think that given the overall national decline in unions and union membership that there it is important to have strength in numbers. The biggest problem, as I stated above is the breakdown in communications between union membership, their unions and SEBAC. Finally, I don’t recall a situation during my years where the unions supported a governor, who, when elected, drew the ire of union membership like this one..we always pretty much knew what/who we were getting..this whole thing has turned really bizarre.

posted by: perturbed | August 5, 2011  10:20pm

perturbed

@ Bob in Glastonbury—a belated “thank you” for your detailed reply. I really do appreciate your perspective.

Still, saying this situation resulted from a communication problem doesn’t even come close to describing the root of this fiasco. The communication problem would have been a non-issue if the individual bargaining unit leaders were allowed to participate in a meaningful way. (Heck, they weren’t allowed to participate in any way at all.) Hearing about the process directly from people we work with and trust, and giving them our feedback, as it unfolded, would have certainly helped.

But at the root of all this, SEBAC had an agenda that involved the legislature and Malloy. That’s why our leaders were locked out. That’s why our interests were sacrificed.

What made that choice even easier for SEBAC was the fact that so many of their other members—not state workers—would benefit from their efforts. They’ve seemingly rubbed that fact in our faces. In that respect, I do believe we were hurt by the national affiliations and their never-ending push to expand their membership. That expansion continues to marginalize state employees in their own unions.

At least that’s how it looks from here.

I really hope we can mount a legal challenge to this process, and that it’s successful.

—perturbed