With hundreds of state employees expected to be separated from their employment over the next few weeks, it may be up to the co-workers they left behind to save their jobs by voting in favor of the wage concessions, which are part of the $1.6 billion concession package.
Like the first vote, the second vote on the clarified concession package will require the 34 bargaining groups that are part of the 15 member coalition to vote in favor of the wage portion of the agreement in order to receive the four years of job security. The changes to the health and pension benefits negotiated by the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition may or may not be separated from the wage portion of the ballot. That‘s a decision each of the bargaining units will have to decide again, like they did for the first vote.
If some bargaining units don’t approve the wage portion of the agreement it’s possible they could be laid off in order to achieve savings even if they voted in favor of the health and pension changes.
“We made it clear that the bulk of, the largest group of the individuals, who thus far received their notices would become effective August 22,” Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Tuesday after his monthly commissioners meeting. “If we are going to retain those people I think it would be good to do it before that.”
But Malloy said the layoffs even for those union members who have left state service will be rescinded if the agreement is ratified.
After meeting all day Monday with Malloy’s chief negotiator, Mark Ojakian, SEBAC decided some of the unions may not allow their rank-and-file members to vote on the agreement again.
“I’m a Democrat. I prefer people to vote,” Malloy said.
Malloy said the unions run the voting and “we are supportive of people voting in the process, regardless of how they are going to vote.”
But it became clear Monday evening that not all the bargaining groups planned on voting again. Some will have their leaders cast their vote for the clarified agreement. But unions like AFSCME Council 4 in which four of the five bargaining units voted against the agreement will be voting Aug. 15 and 16, according to an email from its leadership.
Connecticut Federation of School Administrators Local 61, AFSA, AFL-CIO is one of the bargaining units which won’t be voting again. The group of more than 50 vocational technical school administrators voted in favor the agreement the first time and doesn’t feel it’s necessary to cast a second vote. Ken Best, vice president for communications of the University of Connecticut Professional Employees Association, was unable to be reached for comment Tuesday, but its thought that some of the educational unions that have the summer off will forego a second vote.
Asked if it was a good idea to extend the vote over a three week period in August when the chances that some of them will take vacation, “if they’re concerned they should get back and vote,” Malloy said.
That’s an issue between the bargaining groups and their members, he said.
“I think they’re got to do a better job of communicating with their members what this agreement is and what this agreement is not,” Malloy said. “This agreement is a road forward that puts the state in a sustainable basis with its employees.”
“Clearly if the unions want this to be passed they need to do a better job in answering the questions of their membership,” Malloy said.
While they didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment SEBAC spokesman Matt O’Connor did send out a statement around 8:15 p.m. Tuesday evening asking for the governor to have some patience.
“Right now, the coalition and all of its constituent unions are focused on getting accurate and relevant information out to their members. So much is at stake right now, we can’t afford to lose sight of what really matters. Thousands of state workers have already received layoff notices and thousands more will be unemployed without an agreement. The legislature has already taken steps to restrict workers’ rights to negotiate their health and pension benefits. Then there are the devastating cuts in the governor’s proposed budget which will permanently take away public services that residents rely on every day,” O’Connor said. “With all of that in mind, union leaders are asking the press and the governor to give them the space they need to communicate with the 45,000 state workers they represent.”