(Updated 6:12 p.m.) Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said that after months of negotiating he has reached a deal with labor that saves the state $1.6 billion over the next two years and $21.5 billion over the next 20. However, at a 3 p.m. press conference there was little Malloy could say about the agreement until negotiators have had time to brief union members.
“These savings were achieved in the areas of healthcare and pension benefits, and wages. Our fellow state employee leaders have asked us to refrain from discussing the specific details within each of those categories until they’ve had a chance to communicate them to their members,” Malloy told reporters at a 3 p.m. press conference. “We’re happy to comply with that request.”
At that same press conference Malloy announced he was rescinding the layoff notices already sent to at least 182 of the 4,742 employees expected to receive those notices over the next few weeks. He said the agreement guarantees job security for four years, but refused to give the length of the agreement, which was inked at 2 p.m. Friday afternoon.
“One more point: there are no furlough days in this agreement, nor is there a reduction in the 40-hour work week,” Malloy said. “This means we’ve achieved these savings without reducing government’s ability to serve its constituents, and without reducing employees’ productivity.”
The $1.6 billion deal is just shy of Malloy’s $2 billion goal, but Malloy reiterated his commitment to find the $400 million in spending cuts and not tax increases.
“I’ve directed Ben Barnes [Malloy‘s Budget Director], who I’ve actually given the weekend off to, to work on that next week. But we’ll have a plan,” Malloy said. That plan includes “spending cuts and budgeted revenues.”
Asked how he’s calculating the deal saving $21.5 billion over the next 20 years, Malloy said he will discuss that when the unions have had time to convey the details of the deal to their members.
Matt O’Connor, spokesman for State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition, said he was also unable to discuss the details of that number until members are briefed on the deal and there’s a challenge in reaching all 45,000 workers.
“I can’t say. We don’t have the freedom to discuss that level of detail at this point,” O’Connor said.
Sources say it’s a five year deal, which includes no wage increases in the first two years and three percent wage increases in the following three. There’s also expected to be big changes to the health insurance plan, but specifics of those changes were not available Friday. CTNewsjunkie was told by union sources that all employees, not just new employees, will be asked to contribute to the state retiree health benefits.
Sources said the past six days of discussions revolved around the percentage workers would need to pay in order to buy time and retire from the state without a penalty. The Malloy administration had pushed for a six percent penalty, but union negotiators were able to get that down to 4 percent. Also the retirement age will be raised from 60 to 63 for Tier II employees and 62 to 65 for Tier IIa employees, however, those changes won’t kick in until 2022.
A communication sent out by SEBAC says they understand the process has been difficult and “anxiety-producing” for some members, but given the “extraordinary stakes involved, we sought to avoid the speculation and misunderstandings that would hamper our ultimate goal of reaching a mutual settlement by keeping our discussions out of the media.
The deal will still need to be approved by 14 of the 15 SEBAC member unions. And each of the 34 bargaining groups will need to vote on changes to wages and working conditions specific to each of their unions.
In 2009 the last time the SEBAC contract was reopened it took the state employee unions three weeks to complete the ratification of the contracts.
O’Connor said it’s possible more details will be released early next week.
But keeping 45,000 state employees quiet may be difficult.
Republican lawmakers were quick to criticize Malloy for touting an long term agreement when he was critical of former Gov. John G. Rowland for inking a 20 year deal with labor back in 1997.
House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero and Senate Minority Leader John McKinney told reporters this agreement does nothing to change size and shape of the state workforce.
“Having a government tomorrow that’s the same size as the government today does not get the economy moving. That’s the been the point,” McKinney said.
As for the sacrifices this agreement demands of state employees, Cafero said he doesn’t see it.
“How many people do you know that would scoff at this idea—for the next four years you are guaranteed a job, you will not lose a nickel in pay, in fact we will increase it by 9 percent for next five years, you have the best health insurance package in the United States of America, that’s my deal—Would you sign? In a heartbeat you would,“ Cafero said. “Would there be CEOs and other business people who would be in a position to afford such a thing? I doubt it.”
Malloy said he intends to reduce the number of state employees, “but rather than layoffs, we will do it by attrition, and by eliminating managerial positions.”