Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Friday that the discussions with the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition will go on for a limited amount of time before he starts formulating his backup plan, which will likely include layoffs and deeper spending cuts.
“In the absence of an agreement I’m obligated to put other ideas forth,” Malloy said following the Bond Commission meeting. “It‘s a matter of weeks, not months and we are preparing alternative budgets.”
But preparing an alternative budget isn’t something Malloy wants to do. “I hope we don’t have to go there,” Malloy said. “It would be nasty and ugly.”
Malloy is seeking $1 billion a year from the state employee unions, a number some have speculated is not achievable. Asked if he was satisfied with the progress of the talks and Malloy replied, “they’re not over so I’m satisfied.”
But recent news reports this week seem to show growing unrest amongst at least two SEBAC bargaining groups.
The minutes of an executive board meeting of a local which represents the front-line correction workers noted next to the line item on SEBAC discussions: “NO, NO, NO!“ It went on to say, “The members have spoken and we have heard them loud and clear: No!”
The Courant reports that the Administrative and Residual Union sent out a questionnaire to its members asking if they would be willing to agree to some concessions in order to avoid layoffs and whether they would oppose a one or two-year wage freeze and other changes to their pension benefits.
Larry Dorman, spokesman for AFSCME Council 4 and SEBAC, said earlier this week that the correction workers are expressing their frustration and “years of disregard and disrespect from previous administrations.” He said the union is democratic and members and locals are allowed to have their own opinion on the discussions.
The discussions are not being called “negotiations” by either side because of the legal implications that word carries.
Dorman also said that the fact local bargaining groups are having these discussions doesn’t mean the leadership of SEBAC and its lead negotiator, Daniel Livingston, isn’t bargaining in good faith.
There has been agreement between the Malloy administration and the unions not to discuss the progress or an specifics about the negotiations in the public.
Mark Ojakian, Malloy’s lead negotiator for the union talks, said the recent news reports regarding the unrest of union membership is not going to change his approach to these conversations.
He said he expects that the two sides will be at the point over the next couple week to announce an agreement.
“The option of not getting and agreement is not good,” Ojakian said Friday.
He said the closed-door discussions are happening on a daily basis morning, noon, and night.
At some point over the past three weeks the phone calls have even interrupted a University of Connecticut basketball game. He said for the last 10 days the two sides have been going over the union’s cost saving proposals to see if they can be adopted in the first or second year of the budget.
As the discussions with unions continue Malloy continues to push for the legislature to adopt a budget in early May. He said Friday that he wants discussions with the unions to wrap up ahead of the April 26 Appropriations Committee deadline to make adoption of a budget in early May a more realistic prospect.
However, union membership will have to vote on whatever package comes out of those discussions before the agreement is officially approved. The voting process took longer than a week in 2009 and it’s unclear how quickly a vote could be cast and tallied this year. In that year the announcement a deal had been reached was made on April 20 to May 8 when the agreement was approved by the unions.