Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration announced Wednesday that it has sent layoff notices to 328 state employees as it seeks to balance the two-year budget without the $1.6 billion labor concession package.
It won’t be clear until later this week how many more layoff notices will go out, but it’s expected to be in the thousands. Malloy had previously estimated 6,500, but administration officials said Wednesday the number is expected to drop. They declined to give more information about the total number of layoffs at a Capitol press conference. Later Wednesday afternoon, union members from Connecticut Valley Hospital said about 125 of their colleagues received notices, which were not included in the list of 328.
The 328 layoff notices that went out Tuesday, includes 222 employees from the Department of Corrections. About 191 are correction officers, located mostly at Bergin Correctional Institution in Mansfield, which has been slated for closure by the administration.
The Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services will lose 89 employees, the new Department of Construction Services will lose 14, and the rest will come from two other state agencies.
Of the 328 layoff notices that have gone out about nine of those were given to managers, who aren’t part of any union bargaining group.
Some employees by contract require two weeks, four weeks, six weeks, and even one year of notice, if they are university professors.
Malloy administration officials declined to say Wednesday exactly how many layoff notices will go out, but thousands more are expected to go out in the coming weeks. Malloy initially estimated 6,500 notices would go out in order to save $1.6 billion over the next two years, but those numbers were reduced slightly last week when agency commissioners handed over their draft savings plans to the administration.
“This is dreadfully difficult, of course it is,” Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management Ben Barnes said Wednesday.
Each of the layoff notices will be given out in-person to employees whenever possible, he said.
“It’s not only difficult, as Ben described, but it is complicated in a sense that there are bumping rights that are involved,” Roy Occhiogrosso, Malloy’s senior communications adviser, added at a Capitol press conference Wednesday.
“All agencies are going to be hard-pressed to provide the same level of service after these layoffs have been implemented as they have before,” Barnes said. “No question a reduction in government activity, whether you’re prosecuting criminal cases or monitoring cases in the Department of Children and Families or implementing internal service functions at DAS, all of those things are extremely labor intensive.”
The layoffs will “impede their ability to provide the same level of service without creativity and initiative to offset that,” he added.
Occhiogrosso said the administration will continue to press forward as if there’s no labor agreement because at this time there is no agreement. He said if the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition amends its bylaws then it could “open the door to an agreement.”
According to a letter on the Administrative & Residual Employees Union website, union leaders will meet Monday, July 18 to “consider changing its bylaws for any future agreements that may be reached.“
“I know this has been a long, drawn out process. It is tiring and stressful. I know we all have our opinions and I hope that where our opinions differ, we can agree to disagree,” Laila A. Mandour, president of A&R wrote. “The most important challenge we face is keeping all of our fellow workers employed. With that in mind, I remain confident that we will come to a positive resolution.”
Malloy himself said he sought to avoid the layoffs by reaching a tentative agreement with the coalition of 15 labor unions. But the unions rejected that agreement when four of the 15 unions voted against the package.
SEBAC bylaws required 14 of the 15 unions to vote in favor of the package, which some say created an unreasonable threshold for ratification because it allowed a minority of those voting against the package to defeat it.
“No one disputes that layoffs are a bad thing and it‘s a road the governor didn‘t want to go down but he‘s working on job creation every day,” Occhiogrosso said Wednesday.
There are a number of union members that are unhappy about the prospect of changing SEBAC’s bylaws and moving forward with another vote, while others are calling for a re-vote.
Union leaders have been reviewing SEBAC’s bylaws since the concession deal was defeated.
“We are committed and confident we’re going to be able to avoid these layoffs,” Matt O’Connor, SEBAC spokesman, said Wednesday evening.
He declined to comment on the possible changes to the bylaws.