Malloy delays layoff notices; labor welcomes ‘breathing space’

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s decision to delay layoff notices planned for Friday was welcomed today by labor as giving “breathing space” to concession talks, while the administration called the delay a “positive sign” that does not necessarily signal a deal is imminent.

“It’s not a sign of a huge breakthrough. If it helps bring one, that would be welcome,” said Roy Occhiogrosso, senior adviser to the governor.

“I think what this does is provide space, breathing room for both sides,” said Matt O’Connor, a spokesman for a coalition of state employee unions. “It does seem consistent with what the governor has been saying, that he doesn’t want to lay off employees.”

Talks were continuing between the administration and representatives of state employees over the governor’s demand for $1 billion in concessions and other labor savings, Occhiogrosso said.

Occhiogrosso called the delay a good-faith gesture.

“Not for long, a couple of days,” Occhiogrosso said of the delay. Observing a news blackout on the talks, he declined to characterize the status of the talks or significance of the delay, other than  calling it “a positive sign.”

“I’m not going to handicap the prospects right now,” said the governor’s negotiator, Mark Ojakian.

O’Connor said the administration raised the possibility of a delay yesterday.

“It was confirmed this morning,” he said.

The governor made the decision to delay the notices, which would have to go out Friday under some contracts for Malloy to be able to make layoffs by July 1, between late yesterday and today, Occhiogrosso said.

Every day he delays the notices pushes back by a day the effective date of any layoffs.

Malloy has said he intends to lay off at least 4,000 employees if his administration cannot reach agreement on labor savings with the unions.

Unrelated to the labor talks, about 100 layoff notices still are going out to people in positions that are being eliminated through the consolidation of state agencies that is part of the budget approved Tuesday.

O’Connor said those notices will affect non-unionized workers who mainly hold management positions.

SEBAC, the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition, notified its members today in writing that the administration told them no layoff notices will be issued to unionized employees before next week.

“Coalition leaders remain committed to reaching a mutually agreeable settlement on the role of state workers in the current budget framework,” SEBAC said in the notice. “SEBAC is continuing discussions with the Malloy Administration to ensure we create good jobs, protect vital services, and rebuild Connecticut’s middle class.”

After returning from a 9-11 wreath-laying ceremony in New York, Malloy met briefly with legislative leaders to discuss the budget cuts he will propose in addition to layoffs if the labor talks fail.

“He gave us his framework,” said House Speaker Christopher G. Donovan, D-Meriden. “It would be ugly.”