(Updated) Last week Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s administration reached out to the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition and asked for close to four pages of additional concessions. The move was not welcomed by the unions, who fired back this strongly worded letter.
After dismissing the cost-saving ideas presented by the union leaders as “not likely to produce any significant savings,” Rell’s Budget Director Robert Genuario asked for further reductions in sick and vacation days, but he also asked for increases in health insurance co-payments and changes to pension benefits, in addition to the elimination of longevity pay. The health insurance and pension benefit portion of the SEBAC agreement doesn’t expire until 2017, but the wage freeze and other salaried portions of the contract are set to expire at the end of fiscal year 2011.
“Today you are pandering to the partisan politics of the gubernatorial campaign in making proposals that show a cynical disrespect not just for Connecticut’s 45,000 public service workers, but for all of Connecticut’s struggling families,” the SEBAC coalition’s 15 union leaders wrote in response to the request for deeper concessions.
“Even the cavalier manner in which you dismiss our suggestions for savings and improvements to state services is but a small part of the problem,” the coalition wrote. “We offered in March of 2009 to directly involve frontline workers in the crucial task of improving state services to more efficiently meet the ever-increasing public demand during hard times. Your negotiating team then caucused for all of 45 seconds before dismissing those suggestions out of hand”
Genuario said in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon that he hopes to have a meaningful dialogue with the unions.
“I see no reason why we can’t have a meaningful discussion this year,” Genuario said. While he certainly didn’t expect them to endorse wholeheartedly the concessions he proposed in the letter Thursday, he had hoped it would engage them.
He said he was a little disappointed in the tone of their response. “I don’t see why we all can’t do what’s right for the state,” Genuario said.
Click here to read last year’s story on the estimated $750 million in concessions the unions and the Rell administration agreed upon.