Rumors fly about concession talks; both sides say no deal yet

Rumors flew around state offices this afternoon as some state employee unions told their members a concession deal with the administration of Gov. Dannel P.  Malloy is virtually complete, while others warned that nothing is final and significant work remains.

Union and administration spokesmen said the two sides continue to talk and no deal has been reached. But that did nothing to quell the mix of fact and rumor shared by email, conversation and social media.

“We’re making it very clear that discussions are ongoing, and we are committed to fighting for our members and fighting for a fair resolution to the crisis,” said Larry Dorman, a spokesman for SEBAC, the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition.

Dorman acknowledged that union stewards and others in the 15-union coalition are beginning to share details of the talks, but he declined to confirm or deny any particulars.

“All I can say at this point is members have shared their ideas and their concerns with us,” Dorman said. “They have been verbally briefed by stewards, by delegates and by local union leaders.”

Malloy has made clear he wants to see savings in the state’s pension system, and many of the questions and answers posted online have centered on possible changes to the retirement age under the state’s multi-tiered pension system.

Some employees, including several who claim to be part of the labor talks, have told their colleagues to cease speculating.

“SEBAC says SHUT THE HELL UP!! I am in the room and you are wrong and not helping,” wrote one woman on facebook.

“Calm down and let us finish this thing,” said a man who identified himself as a union rep in comments posted on The Mirror.

“Things are getting crazy,” another employee said in an email.

Dorman said the SEBAC negotiating team is trying to keep its members abreast of the talks, while maintaining the news blackout agreed to by labor and the Malloy Administration.

It is a fine line.

Not surprisingly, SEBAC’s lines of communication are unwieldy. It is a coalition of 15 unions that represent more than 30 bargaining units and about 45,000 employees, whose interests might merge and diverge based on age, experience and job.

“So our union members are going to take different approaches with how they shared information, but everybody is trying to share information in a way that protects the sanctity of the discussions and keeps our members informed and active,” Dorman said.

The obligation to attempt to communicate first with 45,000 members makes inevitable the circulation of rumor and fact, with the union being unable or unwilling to say which is which.

“We are not going to be talking about specifics with the press. Any discussion we do have must start with the members,” Dorman said. “That is a continuing process. That’s all I can say.”