If you watched the NCAA basketball tournament this weekend, you may have seen the latest push by Connecticut’s state employee unions in opposition to requests for contract givebacks.
The 30-second television spot paid for by SEIU 1199 featured a narrator explaining how the work of state employees is “everywhere in our lives.”
“State workers are a vital part of our communities, whether it’s keeping our water safe or providing mental health services,” SEIU spokeswoman Jennifer Schneider said. “After tragedies that prompt a focus on mental health needs, lawmakers speak about the need for these services to be provided. Yet, these services and workers are first on the chopping block by lawmakers this year.”
Schneider declined to say how much the unions spent on the ad.
The television ad is the second the union has contributed to the fight against requests by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and both Democratic and Republican lawmakers to open the part of state employees’ contracts that deal with their health and pension benefits.
On Tuesday, members of the Public Safety Employee Coalition, which includes five of 16 state employee unions, will rally at the state Capitol to push back against the unwillingness of elected leaders to make “better choices” and stabilize the budget with tax increases on the wealthy.
The 10,000 members of the coalition will, according to the press release promoting the event, lobby state legislators and “urge them to oppose harmful service cuts and layoffs, and to make better choices to raise revenues needed to protect public services.”
After they resolve the $220 million deficit facing the state this year, lawmakers are looking at an estimated $900 million deficit in 2017 that they have expressed a willingness to resolve before they adjourn May 4.
“There are going to be layoffs. How many layoffs is dependent on a number of factors, not the least of which is retirements, which we’ll have a better idea of on April 1,” Malloy said last week.
Malloy also warned that there will be no early retirement incentives offered to state employees.
“If you’re going to retire, you should retire,” Malloy said. “If you retire, in all likelihood you’re saving someone’s job.”
Malloy said government is getting smaller because it has to adjust to the “new economic reality.”
Most recently, Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, called on the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition to sit down with the governor and open the contract.
If SEBAC doesn’t reopen its agreement, “their own members are going to suffer more layoffs, which means it is going to be very harsh on more junior employees with families than older employees who are protected through bumping rights and seniority,” Looney told the New Haven Register’s editorial board.
House Speaker Brendan Sharey reiterated his desire for union leaders to discuss contract options to avoid layoffs.
Late last week, Republican lawmakers wrote to the unions and asked them to open the contract.
“By not meeting with the governor, you would be guaranteeing unnecessary layoffs for thousands of employees who depend upon their paychecks and benefits to provide for their families,” House Minority Leader Themis Klarides and Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano wrote in a letter.
Tuesday’s rally will be held at 10 a.m. on north steps of the state Capitol.