Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is encouraging the General Assembly to vote on a labor contract for 1,900 University of Connecticut employees at the same time as he’s calling into question provisions of that contract.
On Thursday, Malloy said the “contract does not fully represent the new economic reality and I have some concerns about it, but the legislature is in charge on this one,” Malloy said Thursday. “I don’t have a role to play with respect to whether it should or should not be passed.”
That being said, Malloy opined that the increase in wages over five years it’s “livable” but on the increasing hours and compensation, “it’s difficult.”
Under the contract, employees would get a 2 percent pay increase and 1 percent merit increase in 2017, and 4.5 percent pay and merit increase in each of the following four years. The current contract expires in June.
Malloy said he’s not even sure they have the ability to make the pension changes.
“I think it may violate our SEBAC agreement,” Malloy said.
He said the contract allows employees who give notice that they will retire in two years an opportunity work part-time and still earn full credit toward their pension.
Dan Livingston, the chief labor negotiator for the State Employees Bargaining Association Coalition, said that he understands the administration is raising a “technical question about a lone provision,” of the contract. However, it’s not a reason to ask the General Assembly to overturn the collective bargaining process.
“If the governor is concerned about this provision, the right remedy is not to vote the contract down in the General Assembly, but to file a charge with the State Labor Board, in which case the provision could be separately reviewed without jeopardizing the rest of the collective bargaining agreement,” Livingston said.
AFT Connecticut President Jan Hochadel said the governor’s wrong about the provision he’s referencing.
“Our members’ new agreement with UConn incorporates a provision in state statute for 22 years that encourages voluntary schedule reductions in order to increase workforce flexibility,” Hochadel said. “If they won’t negatively impact vital services or the employees that deliver them, we’ve always said these reductions ought to be pursued — especially if they’ll help with long-term savings.”
Kathleen Sanner, president of the University of Connecticut Professional Employees Association, said that the contract was negotiated in good faith and she wants the General Assembly to honor those negotiations.
“I think that there’s an economic reality that people are having a hard time adjusting to,” Malloy said, suggesting it’s “dangerous” to discuss pay increases “at a time when we’re talking about layoffs, increasing the number of layoffs to balance the budget this year and next year.”
During Appropriations Committee discussions last week, committee members said members of the UConn bargaining group are not protected from layoffs.
The House Democratic caucus privately discussed the matter Thursday, but has made no decision about whether they will vote on the contract by March 9. The contract will automatically go into effect if the General Assembly doesn’t vote on it.
The Senate Democratic caucus has yet to discussed the matter.
“Any contract that’s increasing any salary in the state of Connecticut should be rejected wholesale,” Rep. Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, said Friday.
He said many people in the private sector haven’t seen increases in their salaries in years.
“We shouldn’t be doing business as normal giving people 3 percent increases like there’s nothing wrong,” Candelora said.
Sen. Rob Kane, R-Watertown, said what the General Assembly decides to do with contract is setting the tone for future negotiations and there’s 15 other contracts coming down the line.
But other lawmakers feel the contract was negotiated and it’s not their place to interfere.
“When we bargain in good faith, we should honor that,” Sen. Gary Winfield, D-New Haven, said.