(Updated 6:21 p.m) The 15 leaders of the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition voted Monday to change its bylaws and allow for another vote on a “clarified” concession package, which it hopes will save thousands of jobs.
The new language changes the number of unions that it needs to ratify the agreement from 14 to 8 and reduces the threshold of voting members from 80 to 50 percent.
“The change would require a majority of per capita votes cast and a majority of the SEBAC voting unions voting to conclude negotiations,” a statement on the union’s website said.
Click here to read the new bylaws.
In order to change the bylaws 10 of the 15 union leaders had to vote in favor of the changes. The vote on the bylaws Monday was not unanimous. At least one union leader, Sal Luciano of AFSCME Council 4—who drew fire from union members for his volunteer work with the SustiNet Board of Directors—voted against the changes.
“The ‘NO’ vote was out of respect to the majority of AFSCME members that voted ‘NO’ on the latest Tentative Agreement. The bylaws do need changing but I did not feel that they should have been changed at this time for this agreement,” Luciano wrote in an emailed statement.
Luciano did vote in favor of waiving the 30-day notice period to change the bylaws. That vote needed to be unanimous in order for Monday’s vote to take place.
If the bylaw changes made Monday were in place prior to the first vote on a concession package, the deal would have been ratified since 11 of the 15 unions and 57 percent of the voting members voted for it. The bylaws, which hadn’t been changed since 1996, required 14 of the 15 unions and 80 percent of the voting members to ratify the deal.
The news was welcomed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who is traveling back from the National Governors Association meeting in Utah tonight.
“It’s good news that the unions have changed their ratification process to one that respects the will of the majority,” Malloy said in a statement. “Over the next few days Mark Ojakian will be speaking with SEBAC leaders to understand which issues in the agreement need to be clarified. Given the limited number of issues that have been identified as problematic, it shouldn’t take more than a couple of days to have a clarified agreement that’s ready to be voted on by all state employees.”
It’s still unclear after more than a half-hour press conference with union spokesmen, what a new “clarified” concession deal will look like.
What was clear was they want an agreement they can bring to their membership very quickly before the layoff notices start taking affect and the savings opportunities disappear.
Leo Canty, vice president of AFT-CT who was filling in for Larry Dorman Monday, said they’ve gathered information from unions members about the failed concession package and plan on bringing them forth for discussions with the Malloy administration.
“We hope that with the amount of heat that was generated by some of these particular issues, we can find a way to fix those problems,” Canty said Monday.
He said they have to move faster on a vote than they did last time, but they’ve also had a few months, and their members have had a few months to digest the package and look at all of these issues. The voting in June lasted for two weeks and was defeated after more than a week.
“We admit. Clearly we did not have a way to get out to 45,000 people in as rapid a process as we possibly could. We’re going to work to fix that,” Canty said.
The stakes couldn’t be higher. With nearly 5,000 state employees receiving layoff notices and numerous state services coming to an end, including closures of courthouses and Department of Motor Vehicle branches, the reality of reaching a concession package is more important than ever, Canty said.
“I think people are paying a little bit more attention…if we can get a proposal to come out I think they’ll be willing to move faster and we’re willing to give them more information,” Canty said.
But with the 2.5 percent raises negotiated under SEBAC 2009 about to go out to more than 40,000 state employees on July 29, the clock seems to be ticking ever faster.
“Every day that goes by there’s a little bump in the complexity circle,” Canty said.
Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney, D-New Haven, has said statistics he received from the governor’s office inform them that every day past July 1 they wait to balance the budget the number of layoffs increases to 29 layoffs per day or $1.6 million per day they will have to cut.
So while the unions may hope to save every job, it’s possible some state employees won’t be called back to state service unless Malloy rescinds the notices.
In the absence of an agreement the General Assembly increased Malloy’s rescission authority from 5 percent to 10 percent in order to allow him to make the necessary budget cuts and close the $1.6 billion gap. This week Malloy handed his detailed budget cutting plans back to the General Assembly. When the dust settled Friday there were 57 fewer state troopers, fewer group homes for the disabled, fewer Department of Motor Vehicle offices, fewer social service offices, fewer teachers, fewer courthouses, and fewer prison guards.
The picture painted by the budget cuts wasn’t pretty and Democratic lawmakers were less than thrilled.
“This plan would harm our state in significant ways. That is why I am urging the Governor and SEBAC to reach an agreement – that is the most responsible action available,” House Speaker Chris Donovan, D-Meriden, said last week in a statement.
On Monday he was breathing a sigh of relief.
“This is the responsible course of action, as we look to avoid the terrible cuts and layoffs that would do so much harm to our state,” Donovan said in a statement.
Republican lawmakers never believed Malloy’s budget cuts and layoffs would come to fruition.
“This entire process – with its proposed cuts to public safety, transportation and education – has been orchestrated to scare the public,” Sen. Leonard Fasano, R-North Haven, said in a statement. “It’s all been a big game and that’s wrong. This was about pressuring the unions to revote and ratify a new deal. The legislature will not get a vote on this and there will be no oversight on where $1.6 billion in concessions come from. The numbers didn’t add up before and they will not add up now.”
Fasano argues that if the numbers didn’t add up in the first place it’s unlikely they will add up now, three weeks into the fiscal year.