Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and legislative leaders said a large number of layoffs are inevitable if the state employee unions don’t come to the table to discuss changes to their health and pension benefit package.
At an unrelated event Tuesday, Malloy said the unions don’t want to have a discussion about preserving jobs and that’s their right. The unions notified their members Sunday that their chief negotiator has no authority to open the contract without a vote of union leadership.
The State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition won’t say whether they will vote to give Daniel Livingston, the coalition’s chief negotiator, that authority.
The governor said he’s been telling anyone who will listen that no one can compel labor negotiations.
But “the inability to have those discussions will make things far worse,” Malloy said Tuesday.
Malloy reiterated that he needs to lay off state workers before June 9 in order to get the necessary savings before the start of the next fiscal year, July 1.
“It’s going to be a substantial number of positions,” Malloy said, declining to say exactly how many employees he may need to lay off.
Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said that in order to achieve the necessary savings in 2016 the state would need to lay off at least 1,000 employees. That number increases to 1,900 employees in 2017, according to Fasano.
Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said he’s told the unions they should once again show the same kind of leadership they did in 2011 and vote to open the contract.
In 2011, the governor sent out layoff notices when the unions rejected the initial changes to their health and benefit package. Looney recalled that those layoffs were rescinded once the changes to the package were approved.
Looney anticipated that something similar may happen this year.
House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, called on the unions to open the contract Feb. 3.
House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said there are things the unions can do to avoid layoffs. Reducing the number of layoffs will be contingent on the union’s ability to agree to change the health and pension benefits they currently receive, Klarides said.
Fasano agreed that layoffs are inevitable if the union doesn’t come to the table.
He said union leadership thinks that Democratic legislative leadership will back them and they can tell the governor to “go pound sand.” He said the rank-and-file union members contacting his office would prefer two days without pay rather than unemployment.
However, union leadership is speaking with its rank-and-file members who believe they’re sacrificed enough.
“Holding critical public services and the middle-class workers who deliver them hostage is no way for political leaders to keep promises to the people of our state,” a memo to AFT CT members reads.
A memo from AFSCME Council 4 Executive Director Sal Luciano to his members said Connecticut politicians are essentially calling for a special tax on state employees by asking them to offer up concessions.
“State employee layoffs and service cuts will wreck Connecticut’s economy, causing havoc and pain for all our members, whether they work for the state, for cities and towns, or for private companies,” Luciano wrote in the memo.
He called for tax increases on the wealthy as a way to resolve the budget shortfall.
Similar memos were sent by other SEBAC unions to their members Tuesday.
As far as closing the 2016 budget deficit, top Democratic legislative leaders said they plan to have a vote on a plan Tuesday, March 29.
Looney said there’s no tax increases being contemplated since they increased taxes last year. And Democratic lawmakers, who have yet to release a proposal to close the $220 million deficit, will do their best to restore funding for Connecticut hospitals.
But there’s no details available about Democratic leadership’s plans to close the $220 million deficit.
Republican legislative leaders released their proposal last week and Malloy released a list of $65 million in spending cuts, which he has the power to approve without the help of the legislature.
In addition to closing the 2016 budget deficit, Looney said they will likely seek a rule change to give the Appropriations Committee an additional week to come up with a proposal to close the 2017 budget deficit. The issue will be raised next Tuesday and will require a two-thirds vote of the General Assembly.
Fasano and Klarides said they will meet with Malloy and Democratic legislative leaders Wednesday. They said they would be very disappointed if Democratic lawmakers had come up with a plan to close this year’s deficit and were negotiating it with the governor’s office behind their backs.