Talks over early retirement program break down

State employee unions have rejected Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s call to offer the second worker retirement incentive program in two years, according to a written statement released late tonight by the administration.

But the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition responded that it didn’t reject anything, but rather insisted that Rell first assess how a second retirement program would affect state services and the fiscal health pension fund.

The first negotiating session since mid-March between the administration and the unions broke down today, leaving the prospect of another incentive program up in the air, with both legal and political questions hanging over the issue.

“The Governor is extremely disappointed that SEBAC – the coalition of state employee unions -tonight summarily rejected any consideration of an early retirement plan to save $65 million in state budget costs,” Rell’s press office wrote. “She is also disappointed that SEBAC would not allow the administration to put alternative cost-saving measures on the table. Governor Rell believes it is a time for renewed respect and cooperation, not intractability and hyperbole.”

But SEBAC spokesman Matt O’Connor said the unions pressed Rell only to answer their questions, and to consider union proposals to streamline government.

The administration has insisted state government can offer a retirement incentive program without union approval, as was done in 2003, but that it prefers not to. But SEBAC argues that that a legal agreement reached in 200r effectively bars the governor and legislature from offering the incentives without union approval.