If the union vote on the clarified labor agreement is anything like the vote on the original deal, the governor will be left with far more leeway to lay off state employees than he would have under the original.
Should unions ratify the clarified agreement, bargaining units that vote to approve a negotiated two-year wage freeze will be protected from layoffs for four years. However, those that do not approve the wage concessions will not be protected.
Due to a change in the bylaws of the State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition that allows a simple majority to ratify a concession deal negotiated over pension and healthcare benefits, an agreement could be in place with a large minority of state employees vulnerable to pink slips.
When unionized state employees voted on the original $1.6 billion deal in June around 17,300 members rejected that wage freeze, according to SEBAC spokesman Matt O’Connor.
But at that point the bylaws required 14 of the 15 unions and 80 percent of voting members to approve in order for ratification. So when only 57 percent of voting members voted yes, the deal was rejected.
The bylaws have changed and if the results of the new vote were the same as the original, a deal would be in place and 17,300 state workers would still be without any protection from layoffs.
As of Tuesday at 9 a.m., the Office of Policy and Management reported that 3,008 layoff notices have been issued in an attempt to close the budget gap left by the failed agreement.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has said that if an agreement is adopted, most, if not all, of the layoffs issued will be rescinded. But the governor and his administration have been reluctant to comment on how, if at all, he would take advantage of an ability to layoff a large minority of state workers.
“I think he wants to wait and see how this turns out and deal with it at that point,” Malloy’s senior communications adviser Roy Occhiogrosso said after a press conference about the most recent wave of layoffs.
Before a Wednesday meeting with the Connecticut Hydrogen Fuel Cell Coalition in East Hartford, the governor implied bargaining units voting against the clarified agreement should expect their layoffs to stick.
“If people chose to reject it, either by local or in total, that’s their decision and the consequences will be what they’re already outlined to be,” he said.
Later he said he’s not making any presumptions about whether bargaining units will find themselves exposed to layoffs.
“Listen, I prefer to hope that they’re all going to pass the agreement and that that’s not an issue,” he said.
In a letter to members O’Connor stressed that the change in the bylaws did nothing to change the requirements for layoff protection.
“If members of a bargaining unit want protection from layoffs for four years, a majority needs to approve their individual unit agreement, which extends their current contract for five more years. That’s the same as was the case under the previous tentative agreement, and is not changed by the coalition’s amended bylaws,” he wrote.
Union leaders are now preparing their rank and file to vote on the clarified agreement. He said they are “making the case for members supporting the revised tentative agreement in light of the very real threat of job and benefit losses.”
On Friday night they began distributing fliers outlining the benefits of the package, which call the four-year layoff protection “the most substantial layoff protection for a states’ workforce anywhere in the country.”
Corrections Local 391 President Jon Pepe said requirements for layoff protection will be one of the things discussed when his members meet for informational sessions. He said he has been encouraging members to vote for both the SEBAC agreement and the wage freeze.