State Employee Unions Ratify Agreement
Officials from the state’s 13 employee unions announced Friday that 26,408 union members voted in favor of a concession package, which could save the state an estimated $700 million.
While all 31 bargaining units within those 13 unions agreed to contribute more to their health insurance and pension benefits, not all of them agreed to wage concessions and furlough days.
Two bargaining units, one representing Corrections officers and one representing Corrections supervisors, did not agree to wage concessions and as a result will not be afforded the job security provision offered to the other 29 bargaining units that did.
Sal Luciano, executive director of AFSCME Council 4, who represents 5,000 Correction officers that did not sign a wage agreement, said “I don’t know if we will come to an agreement. I don’t know if we can come to an agreement.”
“Things are really bitter between them and their employer,” Luciano said.
He said they tried to put a few things on the table, but none of them got the negotiations to move forward.
Cathy Osten, president of the CSEA/SEIU Local 2001 union representing the 600 Corrections supervisors, said “the Department of Corrections administration does not care about the fiscal crisis in the state of Connecticut that is apparent by their lack of offer to both the Correction supervisors and Correctional officers.”
Because there was no bargaining agreement there could be layoffs in either of those units as early as today, Luciano said.
Neither Luciano or Osten would identify the specific issue or issues holding up negotiations. Luciano said he hopes they can reach a deal in the future, but at the moment there is no deadline for a deal to be reached.
The Corrections supervisors union is in a unique situation because it has an arbitration award pending. If the General Assembly wanted to deny the award, which includes raises between 3 and 4 percent, it could. In February, the General Assembly didn’t take any action on the Corrections officers award that granted raises this year of between 4.5 and 5.5 percent.
Jeffrey Beckham, spokesman for the Office of Policy and Management, said Friday that the administration asked the General Assembly to reject the February award and reserves the right to take a position on the Corrections supervisors award.
The 29 bargaining units, which signed off on the SEBAC agreement, agreed to a wage freeze this year and a 2.5 percent wage increase in each of the following years.
Dan Livingston, chief negotiator for the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition, said the reason they were able to reach an agreement on the health insurance and pension contribution portion of the package was because “we did not bargain in the press.”
“This was not an easy process, but our members saw the need to protect public services for the people of this state and wanted to be part of the solution,” Livingston said.
“State workers cannot solve this problem alone,” he said. “We are calling upon the administration and legislative leaders to ask those who really can afford to make a difference, that is the most wealthy among us and the largest and most profitable corporations to step forward and be part of the solution.”
Of the 34,883 members who voted on the increased health insurance and pension benefit portion of the package, 26,408 voted in favor of it and 8,475 voted against it.
Gov. M. Jodi Rell sent out a two-sentence statement saying simply: “Our negotiations were conducted in a spirit of cooperation and respect and we have achieved a tremendously productive result. I thank everyone involved.”
Livingston said it’s still unclear after Friday’s vote tally how many employees would be taking advantage of the early retirement package.
Employees over the age of 55 with more than 10 years of service or 20 years of hazardous duty were offered an additional three years of service if they retire before June 1 or July 1.
What’s not part of the agreement is any language which asks the administration to endorse tax increases or revenue enhancements. “I would favor a world when working families actually got to bargain taxes, but it’s not the world we live in,” Livingston said.
“We would have loved to talk to governor about tax policy and lots of other things, but we don’t have the legal authority to do that and the administration was very clear that they didn’t want to do that with us.”