Christine Stuart photo
House Speaker Brendan Sharkey (Christine Stuart photo)

(Updated 4 p.m.) The Democrat-controlled General Assembly is off the hook. It doesn’t have to vote on a labor contract for 1,900 non-teaching staff because the union failed to file part of the contract with the House and the Senate clerks.

The University of Connecticut Professional Employees Association withdrew the controversial contract just days before the Senate was prepared to reject it.

Kathleen Sanner, president of UCPEA, said there was an inadvertent technical error in an appendix attached to the collective bargaining agreement when it was filed with the legislature.

“It must be corrected and filed again with the clerks of both chambers,” Sanner said in an emailed statement explaining the reason it was withdrawn.

Christine Stuart file photo
Kathleen Sanner, president of UCPEA (Christine Stuart file photo)

Sanner and members of the union will meet soon to decide how next to proceed.

Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said he doesn’t believe there was a technical glitch.

“The only ‘technical glitch’ is that the Democrats don’t want to vote on the contract,” Fasano said. “This is a convenient excuse for legislative Democrats to get them out of taking a vote on this contract we all know is a bad deal for Connecticut.”

He said the union submitted documentation on March 2 to correct the alleged error.

House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, said the filing error would have been “fatal to the contract” and that they’ve known about it for “a couple of few weeks.”

Union officials said they were only made aware of the error on Wednesday.

“It’s actually a technical thing, but it could be problematic for the entire contract,” Sharkey said.

Sharkey said this gives the union time to “take a breather” and go back and think about whether to file a corrected version or renegotiate the contract. Sharkey said both the House and the Senate were committed to voting on the contract.

However, Sharkey has been less vocal about need to reject the contract than his Democratic colleagues in the Senate. Only one chamber needed to reject the contract in order to defeat it.

Senate President Martin Looney and Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff said they told union leadership on Thursday that the Senate planned to vote down the contract.

“The current contract is not only unsustainable but an awful contract for Connecticut’s taxpayers,” Looney and Duff said.

The two said it doesn’t matter what excuse the union is using to withdraw the contract, “the fact remains that the contract was going to be defeated by the Senate Democrats.”

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy also issued a statement Wednesday calling on the General Assembly to reject the contract. The contract would have automatically gone into effect if the General Assembly failed to vote on it before March 9.

At a press conference outside the House chamber, Sharkey took umbrage with Malloy’s decision to weigh in during the eleventh hour on what he feels is a “legislative issue.”

“This was something squarely in the governor’s court to address much earlier than he did,” Sharkey said.

Malloy adminisatration Deputy Chief of Staff Mark Bergman pointed out that Sharkey was unable to convince his members on the Appropriations Committee to vote against the contract when the issue was debated last week.

“Now he’s trying to deflect attention away from his own inability to manage his caucus,” Bergman said. “The simple reality is that the governor’s intervention is what lead to this contract being withdrawn. The Speaker should stop looking for other people to do his own heavy lifting.”

Under the five-year contract, employees would get a 2 percent pay increase and 1 percent merit increase in 2017, and then a 4.5 percent pay and merit increase in each of the following four years. However, there was a disagreement about how much the contract would actually cost.

The University of Connecticut estimated it would cost $55.9 million over five years, but Malloy administration Budget Director Ben Barnes and the legislature’s nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis pegged the cost at $93.9 million over that same period of time, a difference of nearly $40 million.

Lori Pelletier, president of the AFL-CIO, said they were disappointed in where the process was headed, but “it’s a glitch.” She said the statute calls for a supersedence appendix to be filed and it wasn’t attached to the contract.

She said the members of the bargaining group will have to go back and decide whether they want to submit the same contract or renegotiate with the university.

She said this is just another step in respecting the collective bargaining process.

But Republican legislative leaders said the union withdrew the contract because it was going to be rejected.

“The fact is there was not support for this contract, so the Democrats came up with a last-second ‘glitch’ in the contract and avoid exposing their members to a vote,” House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said.

But Pelletier said they didn’t learn about the supersedence appendix until Wednesday, March 2, when Barnes pointed it out in a letter. She said that caused them to take another look at the language that was filed and that’s when they discovered what they filed was wrong.

“It was a clerical error,” Pelletier said.

AFT Connecticut President Jan Hochadel said the future of this contract or any contract doesn’t change the fact that “elected leaders need to choose whose side they’re on; the side of working families and the middle class or the side of the richest 1 percent.”

The contract is the first of many labor contracts that are being negotiated by the administration. It’s unclear how many contracts may come before the General Assembly before they adjourn on May 4.