(Updated Sat. 12:37 p.m.) Shortly after 10 p.m. Friday evening, the union coalition and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced they had reached a clarified tentative agreement, which rescinds all of the layoff notices given out over the past three weeks and rolls back the raises that went into effect July 1.
The agreement gives state employees a second chance to approve a concession deal they failed to ratify last month and restores thousands of jobs if it’s successful.
Matt O’Connor, spokesman for the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition said it will be up to the individual bargaining units to decide when to vote on the agreement, but “union leaders know they will need to act quick.”
The unions believe it won’t take as long as it did the first time to explain the concession package to members since there were few changes made. There were only 11 sections of the agreement clarified —most remain the same.
The clarified agreement seeks to put to bed the rumors SustiNet was part of the health benefit plan and makes it clear that participation in the Health Enhancement program was always voluntary.
“The health care language has been clarified to make it crystal clear that state employees are not being put into a new healthcare system called ‘SustiNet,’” Malloy said in a statement late Friday night.
Enrollment for employees in the Health Enhancement Plan is voluntary and was always voluntary even though there was the perception by some members that it was mandatory. Sources say the two sides are estimating enough state employees will enroll in the program to achieve the $205 million over the next two years in savings.
If employees enrolled in that plan, which requires them to receive annual physicals and age appropriate exams then decided not to participate, they will be charged an additional $100 per month in premiums and a $350 deductible for not participating. However, if a dependent living with an ex-spouse decided not to participate, in the plan the state employee will not be charged the additional monthly costs.
O’Connor said that clarification and the elimination of the penalty in those cases was the direct result of conversations leaders had with their members.
The requirement that all maintenance prescription drugs be mail-ordered changed slightly too. The original agreement required all maintenance drugs to be mail-ordered, but a new agreement allows them to be delivered to local pharmacies that are willing to participate in the program so members are able to ask their local pharmacist about potential drug interactions and local pharmacists won’t completely lose their state employee customers.
The wage increase employees were expecting to see in their checks July 29 will cease upon ratification of the agreement and for members that earned their top-step bonus on July 1, the money received will be repaid in equal payments over the 23 pay periods following ratification.
“There is language in the agreement that will allow the state to recoup the money state employees will be getting from a raise that just went into effect,“ Malloy said. “And the effective date by which state employees can retire before any of these changes go into effect has been changed from September 2, 2011 to October 2, 2011. That’s it. No other changes from the first agreement.”
“I said all along that I was only willing to clarify terms from the last agreement, and that’s what we’ve done,” Malloy added.
But will it be enough to win ratification even under the new lower threshold adopted by union leaders earlier this week?
“I hope state employees ratify this agreement, but I am assuming nothing,” Malloy said. “If they ratify it, the vast majority of layoffs and painful spending cuts can be undone. If this agreement fails, then we’ll unfortunately have to continue to lay people off and implement the spending cuts.”
Four of the 15 unions rejected the $1.6 billion concession deal last month and even though 57 percent of the voting members favored the package it didn’t meet the 80 percent threshold for passage. Earlier this week union leaders lowered the threshold for ratification. Now, only 8 of the 15 unions and 50 percent of the voting members will be needed to win ratification.
Lawmakers who wound up giving Malloy the increased recission authority after the first labor agreement failed were happy the two sides were able to clarify the agreement after a week of discussions.
“We congratulate both the leadership of SEBAC and Governor Malloy for concluding respectful discussions and reaching an agreement that – if ratified by union members – will protect thousands of jobs and help retain services that families expect and rely upon,” Senate President Donald Williams and House Speaker Chris Donovan said on Facebook. “The majority of state employees supported the agreement when they voted weeks ago and we urge their colleagues to follow their lead. Ratification is clearly the best option for Connecticut’s fragile economy.”
Click here to read our previous report from earlier Friday outlining what’s at risk.
Editor’s note: This story clarifies that mail-ordered drugs can now be delivered to local pharmacies