State prosecutor Lisa Herskowitz vowed Thursday to appeal a recommendation by the state Board of Labor Relations to dismiss her complaint seeking to overturn the state employee concession package.
The complaint rested on the claim that the State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition negotiated union employee wage concessions with representatives of the governor’s office when it is only statutorily authorized to negotiate changes to health care and pension benefits. Changes to wages are up to the individual bargaining units to negotiate.
But on Dec. 16, the board recommended the complaint be shot down, finding no merit in various allegations she made against the SEBAC, as well as the Connecticut Association of Prosecutors, the Department of Criminal Justice, and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.
Herskowitz said she wasn’t surprised by the decision but won’t be deterred. If the board dismisses her claim after a formal hearing, she said she would take it to court.
“It’s a matter of principle at this point,” she said in a telephone interview.
The complaint filed with the board was amended several times and covered a wide array of grievances about the way the the coalition, union leaders, and Malloy conducted themselves throughout the process.
Herskowitz said she won’t rehash many of those concerns when she appeals the recommendation. Though important to her personally, she said allegations that the governor tried to coerce state workers are unlikely to overturn the $1.6 billion agreement.
Instead she said she will focus on the claim that SEBAC overstepped its authority when it negotiated benefits that should have been up to the bargaining units.
Herskowitz acknowledged if she were to be successful it would create complications for the state.
“My fear is that its going to cause such chaos for the state. I’m not just a state employee, I’m also a tax payer,” she said.
The state would have to retroactively refund the raises that state workers gave up, she said. It would also impact people who decided to retire as a result of the agreement as well as workers who chose to go on their spouse’s insurance plans, she said.
Still, she said she is pursuing the complaint largely because of the changes the agreement made to employee health plans, which could force state workers into types of medical treatment that aren’t beneficial for them.
Herskowitz said she would take the complaint to the state Supreme Court if it came to that. However, she expressed financial concerns. The process would likely take years and she said she would have to hire a lawyer, which is expensive.
When she first filed the complaint in July, state employees unhappy with the concessions package rallied around her, creating Facebook groups and offering to raise money for legal action.
However, Herskowitz said much of that activity has died down and she hopes support for her efforts will be renewed.
Not everyone was unhappy with the labor board’s recommendation. SEIU spokesman Matt O’Connor, who spoke for SEBAC during the concessions deal, said the unions acknowledge Herskowitz’s right to appeal the decision but said they are looking to the future not the past.
“We really have to move forward. There’s a tremendous amount of work to be done in transforming the way state government works,” he said.
He said the unions are focused on using the committees created by the SEBAC agreement to change the culture of the workplace where state employees serve the public.