HARTFORD, CT — One day before public employee unions are expected to pack the Legislative Office Building in opposition to dozens of anti-union bills being heard by the Appropriations Committee, the largest healthcare workers union launched a television ad calling on lawmakers to protect their jobs.
The ad, which features workers serving the disabled, abused children and those in need of mental health and addiction services, seeks to remind legislators of the services state employees provide.
“State workers do essential, important work for our state,” SEIU 1199 spokesperson Jennifer Schneider, said. “Every day they work out of the limelight caring for the disabled, the abused, and keeping our communities safe by providing mental health and drug addiction services.”
She said they don’t deserve the constant threat of losing their jobs.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said earlier this week that if he doesn’t get the $700 million in labor savings he needs to balance his budget in 2018, then he will have to resort to laying off 4,200 state employees.
A list of how many employees would be laid off was detailed on page 23 of his budget.
On Tuesday, Malloy told reporters that his administration and the unions have been having informal discussions, but there’s no agreement at this point.
“We have an agreement to try and get to an agreement,” Malloy said.
He said those discussions will continue.
Malloy’s budget includes $869 million in labor savings in the second year of his budget proposal.
The two-year, $41.51 billion budget, closes a $3.6 billion deficit.
Malloy, who was able to layoff fewer than 1,000 state employees last year realizes how difficult it can be to remove state employees from state service. However, on Tuesday he declined to say when he would need to make an announcement about layoffs if no deal is reached.
Last year, Malloy was able to lay off about 825 executive branch employees, while the judicial branch laid off about 300. Some of those employees were able to win back their jobs, but it’s unclear exactly how many due to the various bargaining groups and grievances filed.
Neither the administration or the unions can say with any certainty how many employees were able to win back their jobs.
At the same time, additional layoffs that were expected to take place within the Department of Developmental Services at the beginning of the year, but have yet to happen. Those layoffs have been delayed as the state waits to transition at least 30 group homes to private nonprofits providers.
The Connecticut State Employees Association, SEIU Local 2001 and New England Health Care Employees Union District 1199 sought an injunction in Hartford Superior Court last October to stop the privatization from moving forward until negotiations are completed. The case is still pending and the next court date isn’t until April 13.
The lawsuit says that by moving forward with privatizing the services and layoff union members constitutes a “prohibited practice.” The union already filed a “prohibited practice” complaint with the state Board of Labor Relations and is seeking a court injunction to stop the privatization from moving forward until the board and resolve the matter.
“Laying off bargaining unit members and contracting out services threatens to irreversibly eliminate DDS’ capacity to deliver those services because the work will have been wholly privatized and the individuals the employees care for will have settled into new homes and/or adapted to new caretakers,” the lawsuit states.
On Tuesday, Malloy said his office is very familiar with the various contractual obligations in each of the contracts the state has with its bargaining units.
He said there are some bargaining groups that have had five years of zero salary increases, and one group that’s had six zeroes since 2008.
“That’s state government, five or six zeroes,” Malloy said.
He said he doesn’t believe there’s a municipality in the state that’s handed out that many zeroes to its employees.
“I agree with our labor folks that they can’t be the sole solution,” Malloy said. “They have to be part of the solution and I laid that out very clearly. But they can’t be the sole solution.“
Malloy said if they don’t get the labor savings then it’s going to make “everything else that much harder.”
Schneider said the ad will run during the men’s NCAA March Madness tournament and on statewide television during the legislative session.