The Senate gave final approval by a 22-13 vote on a plan to give unionized state workers a set of raises and bonuses.
The plan, negotiated by Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration and a coalition of public sector labor unions, provides three years of 2.5% raises and step increases as well as a total of $3,500 in bonuses for most workers. It has been ratified by workers and still requires approval by the state Senate. Fiscal analysts estimate the deal will cost about $1.87 billion over four years.
Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, said the last time they had a labor agreement in 2009, 2011 and 2017, it took benefits away from employees. She said this agreement actually incurs some expenses.
“This is the first time we have really had the capacity as a state to address the wages of the workers who work for us in many different areas,” Osten said.
She said they deserve these raises and bonuses and even with them it doesn’t bring them up to the private sector level for people working in similar positions.
“All of these private sector businesses are saying we’re increasing our wages to entice workers to come work for us,” Osten said. She said the state of Connecticut has to do the same.
“These increases are happening not just in Democratic states, they’re happening in Republican states because everyone is trying to hold onto the state workers they have,” she added.
Republicans say Connecticut residents are struggling and can’t afford this.
Ryan Fazio, R-Greenwich, said $40,000 in raises per state employee is what this deal equates to over four years.
“It’s an anvil around the neck of regular workers, regular families around the state,” Fazio said.
Fazio said state workers should be adequately compensated, but this deal isn’t fair.
“We want fairness. We want a square deal, but this again is a rare deal that compounds the interests of the past,” he said.
Deputy Republican Leader Paul Formica, R-East Lyme, said inflation is as high as it’s been in many decades and coming off a pandemic.
“Moving forward in the next four years things have to get better,” he said.
Formica, who is not running for re-election, said over the next four years “we will find ourselves getting back to normal.”
He said four years is too long.
“If it were me I would have suggested we need to negotiate a two year contract,” he added.
Formica, who owns a restaurant, said he’s had to increase the pay for his employees.
Senate Republican Leader Kevin Kelly said families have not recovered from the Great Recession.
“The people at the bottom end are really struggling,” Kelly said.
“What we’re looking at is a $1.9 billion package for 46,000 government workers and for the 3.5 million people across the state of Connecticut there’s been $100 million of tax relief,” Kelly said.
Kelly was referring to the recent tax gas holiday, sales tax holiday, and free bus fare.
He said $100 million for all families and $1.9 billion for government itself and you start putting out that it’s $40,000 for every state employee. The “fairness pales in comparison,” he added.
Before 2017, these types of labor deals would go into effect without legislative action. The bipartisan budget that year required a vote on labor agreements.
The agreement will now go into effect and does not need the governor’s signature.