Some of the 4,742 state employees will begin receiving pink slips Tuesday, but details about which of the 34 bargaining groups and who in those groups received them won’t be available until mid-day Thursday, according to administration officials.
“Wherever possible those notifications are being made in person,” Roy Occhiogrosso, Malloy’s senior communications advisor said Tuesday. “We want to make sure the people on the list have actually been notified,” before the list is released to the media.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced that the first round of layoff notices would be going out Tuesday morning in an emailed statement. Malloy had delayed sending the notices out late last week when it looked like progress was being made in those closed-door negotiations.
Asked why Malloy made the decision to send them out Tuesday if negotiations are still ongoing, Occhiogrosso said “the calendar.”
“I think because he had the sense that not enough progress had been made to warrant delaying another day or two,” Occhiogrosso said. “And felt it was important to begin this process in an orderly fashion.”
And this is only the first round. Depending on what choices Malloy makes in submitting his ‘Plan B’ budget to the legislature there’s expected to be even more layoffs, but administration officials were unable to say how many more Tuesday afternoon.
Occhiogrosso said both sides continue to be respectful as they continue negotiations. The lead negotiator for the state is Mark Ojakian, deputy secretary of the Office of Policy and Management, and the lead negotiators for the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition is Daniel Livingston, a veteran labor lawyer. Livingston and Ojakian have know each other for years, “which in some ways makes it more difficult and in some ways makes it easier to have respectful discussions,” Occhiogrosso said.
“I would characterize the conversations as tough, but respectful,” he said. Those negotiations haven’t blown up because “there are no enemies here.”
Three spokesmen for SEBAC made their way to the Capitol Tuesday to offer their own perspective on the negotiations.
“It’s hard for us to say that we’re willing to do things that may really harm our members,” Leo Canty, vice president of AFT-CT, said.
He said he understands public opinion is not on the side of the unions, but it’s union workers that stand up for all middle class workers when they demand certain things be provided by their employer.
“People who do a good days work actually need to be rewarded instead of punished,” Canty said. It’s unclear if non-union workers understand this, but Canty said he hopes they do because that’s what motivates and drives the unions.
But union leadership remained committed Tuesday to return to the bargaining table after talking with the leadership of SEBAC’s 34 bargaining groups.
“There’s been a lot of talk about this ‘Plan B’ and all we can do is try and focus on ‘Plan A’,” Larry Dorman, spokesman for SEBAC said.
He said the unions are asking themselves, “how do we help in a way that’s fair and doesn’t put the burden on middle class state workers.” He said that’s all they can control right now and refused to speculate what may happen if rank-and-file members don’t ratify the agreement union leadership puts out to its members.
“Our workers get that they’re part of this bigger economic crisis that’s effecting all middle class and working families,” Matt O’Connor, another SEBAC spokesman, said. “They get that any decision they make that involves their stepping up and pitching in has got to be part of a broader solution.”
The devastating service cuts, layoffs, and reductions in municipal aid which are all part of Malloy’s ‘Plan B’ are only going to make the economic crisis worse, O‘Connor said. But in order to get to an agreement they can‘t be thinking about those things as they return to the negotiating table.
Left out of the closed-door negotiation lawmakers can only sit around and worry about what cuts Malloy will choose from the $1.2 billion he was handed last week. Most worrisome for some will be the $482 million in municipal aid identified as part of that alternative budget plan.
“If no deal is reached, as part of a Plan B budget, municipal aid will be reduced,” Occhiogrosso said. “By how much has yet to be determined, but there’s no question municipal aid will be reduced.”
Local leaders like East Hartford Mayor Marcia LeClerc said Monday that she will need to send out supplemental tax bills or layoff municipal employees if her state funding is reduced more than it has already.
“The Governor’s Plan B proposal paints a bleak picture for Connecticut,” House Speaker Chris Donovan said in a statement Tuesday. “I ask Governor Malloy and the leadership of the state employee unions to stay at the negotiating table and get the job done.”