Gov. Dannel P. Malloy warned that if the $1.6 billion concession package, which includes changes to health care and retirement benefits is not ratified by the state employees, there will be large scale layoffs and spending cuts that will impact the delivery of services.
If 14 of the 15 unions fail to ratify the agreement Malloy reminded reporters Thursday that there will need to be “large scale” layoffs to close the budget gap. Layoffs beyond the 4,700 he announced just days before a tentative agreement was reached May 13.
Those layoffs will reach “well past people employed 10 years or more,” Malloy said. That’s because in order to achieve the savings to balance the budget the spending cuts would eliminate entire programs and with it employees with 20 years or more experience, he said.
And he won’t feel responsible for them if he is forced to make that decision.
“We will lay people off on a large scale for which I will not feel responsible,” Malloy said. “We have done everything in our power to reach agreements with the negotiating team.”
As a show of good faith Malloy rescinded fewer than 200 layoffs notices that had been sent out once a draft agreement was reached with union leadership back in May.
It’s still unclear how the General Assembly will handle the agreement, which won’t be voted on until late June long after it adjourns.
Tim Bannon, Malloy’s chief of staff, said there are a numbers of ways to avoid having the legislature return to bless a ratified agreement. He said they will look to establish a process that takes the two scenarios into consideration as they finish drafting budget implementers. If the $1.6 billion package isn’t ratified he said they will have a process in place to address the budget shortfall before July 1, the start of the new fiscal year.
Meanwhile, early in the ratification process things are not looking as good as they did back in 2009.
Even before the final draft of the negotiated $1.6 billion State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition concession package had been released last Friday there seemed to be an unorganized Internet campaign aimed at its defeat. Emails and websites were set up in late May calling into question several aspects of the union agreement.
An email which has been forwarded so much it’s impossible to trace back to its origins asks state employees to vote “no” on the deal because of the health care package and the changes to the retirement system, which don’t become effective until 2022.
Malloy said Thursday afternoon that he’s read the comments from union members on websites asking for an early retirement incentive package and he’s seen the misinformation about health care benefits.
“I have made it clear as a candidate, made it clear since I’ve become governor, that I am not going to pay people to retire and further burden a pension system which at the last Pew analysis was 42 percent funded,” Malloy said. “I’m not going to do it.”
As for the health care portion, which the viral email says forces state employees to give up their traditional health care plans for SustiNet, “nothing could be further from the truth,” Malloy said. “There is no SustiNet offering. Period.”
“There is a great plan of benefits available to state employees,“ Malloy said. “I know some people are envious of that plan but the fact is it remains intact in these negotiations with some savings being found on a limited basis.”
Matt O’Connor, spokesman for SEBAC, said there is a lot of misinformation out there which union leadership is looking to clear up in face-to-face meetings with employees and group meetings like the one being held Saturday at the state Armory.
He said the health care benefits aren’t changing as dramatically as people seem to think and the retirement changes, such as the increase in the retirement age, doesn’t even kick in until 2022. The health care changes — including a move to a value-added health care plan — has some employees up in arms because it requires them to pay an additional $100 per month in premiums and a $350 per person deductible if they fail to attend their annual medical and dental screenings.
O’Connor said he understands the agreement is complex, but these meetings are helping employees understand that leadership had their best interests in mind when the deal was negotiated.
An internal communication the union distributed to its membership helps debunk some of the misconceptions regarding the health care benefits being offered as part of the package.