(Updated 3:12 p.m.) NEW BRITAIN—Gov. Dannel P. Malloy reiterated his feelings Wednesday that it’s still up to the unions to prove they would be able to pass a clarified concession agreement if talks are expected to continue.
The deal officially defeated by union leadership Tuesday provided four years of job security and made changes to pension and health care benefits, but “I think folks didn’t do a good job explaining that to their members,” Malloy said.
“They also have a set of rules that make it very difficult to amend these agreements and unless there’s a clear road to resolve that issue it’s difficult to move forward,” Malloy said. “Having said that you never close the door.”
Malloy said he’d be happy to have discussions about clarifying the SustiNet issues, but is uncertain if that will be enough to pass the agreement.
“The agreement was always very clear that the benefits, the medical benefits, were guarantees that were being extended not shortened,” Malloy said.
The other hurdle he faces is the approximately 2.5 percent salary increases being given to more than 40,000 state employees later this month. The failed agreement would have postponed those raises another two years in exchange for three percent wage increases in the last three years of the five year extension of the agreement.
“I’m not sure there’s a clear road to ratifying any agreement,” Malloy said. “So until we get to a point where there’s a clear road it’s hard to seriously consider that.”
He said he has to understand what the level of commitment is from the unions for resolving this issue before sending someone from his administration back to the table for discussions.
In the meantime, Malloy said he’s pressing forward with preparing a budget that will layoff more than 6,500 state employees. He said it’s not a road he wanted to take but the defeat of the agreement left him no choice.
“This is not a time to be laying off 6,500 people,” Malloy said. “It wouldn’t be good for the economy, but if there’s not a choice then we move forward.”
“It’s not as if I’m not desirous of finding a solution. Again we’ve got to understand what a road to an approval process is because clearly it hasn‘t worked,” Malloy added.
And the clock is ticking, Malloy said a vast majority of the 6,500 state employees will have already lost their jobs by Aug. 31. Malloy is expected to present his budget cuts to legislative leaders on July 15
Union spokesman were unable to specify any bylaw changes being discussed by their leaders Tuesday and were unable to say specifically how they planned to move forward— aside for asking the Malloy administration to reconvene discussions.
“We understand the governor’s interest in the approval process—and his recognition that any change to the process is an internal SEBAC matter,” Matt O’Connor, SEBAC spokesman, said.
Last week the union leaders adopted a resolution to consider changes to the SEBAC bylaws that would govern future agreements. In the statement on their website they noted: “changes that must reflect both the democratic values of the unions that make up our coalition and the lessons learned from experience.”
In the meantime, the unions said they want to start meeting with the administration to work on a solution, “Given how much is at stake for the economy, for the critical public structures upon which the economy depends, and for our members and the services they provide, we think time is working against all of us.”
Union sources say they may look to change the rule of accepting a new, clarified package by a simple majority of the members.
The current 1996 bylaws were so stringent that even though 57 percent of the voting members endorsed the agreement, it still failed. Four of the 15 unions were able to defeat the agreement by opposing it. In order to pass 14 of the 15 unions would have needed to ratify it, in addition to 80 percent of the voting members.
The State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition requires two-thirds of the 15 union leaders to vote in favor of any change to the bylaws. Union spokesmen were not ready to talk about the bylaw discussions amongst their leaders Tuesday and were not immediately available for response today.