Downsizing continues as unions work on concessions

As state employee unions plan a preliminary vote next week to lay the groundwork for a new concession deal, the administration of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy says it still is intent on meeting a legislative deadline of Friday to produce a plan to downsize state government.

Benjamin Barnes, the secretary of the Office of Policy and Management, said today that 328 employees have been notified of layoffs, most of whom are Department of Correction workers at a Mansfield prison already slated to close Aug. 5.

Under legislation approved in special session after the rejection of the first tentative concession agreement, Malloy must submit a detailed plan to make up the $1.6 billion in lost savings over two years.

“It will give you a road map of where we’re going to get to over the next few months,” Barnes said of the plan. “I think you will at that point have an idea of what the state work force is going to look like based on that plan.”

The plan, ultimately, could be moot if the SEBAC coalition can quickly figure out how to change its bylaws in a way that makes ratification of a new concession agreement more likely.

SEBAC’s board is set to vote Monday on bylaw changes, according to a notice sent to members of the Administrative & Residual Union, one of the 15 member unions of the coalition. An AAUP chapter also has told its members of a vote next week.

“I know this has been a long, drawn out process. It is tiring and stressful. I know we all have our opinions and I hope that where our opinions differ, we can agree to disagree,” Laila Mandour, the president of A&R, told her members. “The most important challenge we face is keeping all of our fellow workers employed. With that in mind, I remain confident that we will come to a positive resolution.”

Unclear is how the bylaws might be changed. Spokesman for the coalition have declined to speculate previously, other than say a review of the bylaws is under way. The previous effort won approval by 57 percent of participating members, but only 11 of 15 unions voted in favor.

Matt O’Connor, a spokesman for the SEBAC coalition, declined to comment today on the effort to change the bylaws.

Malloy said Tuesday there is little to discuss about a new concession deal with SEBAC until it settles on a way it might change the rules for ratification.

“Without a road to an approval process, there is no sense in having any level of discussion, so we await the road,” Malloy said.

Barnes and Roy Occhiogrosso, the governor’s senior adviser, briefed reporters today on the status of layoffs that Malloy previously said could reach as many as 6,500 employees. Barnes today that number is fluid.

In a status report of the layoffs, 221 of the 328 employees to receive notices so far are employees of the Department of Correction, including 191 correction officers.

Barnes said most or all those employees work at Bergin Correctional Institution in Mansfield, a pre-release center slated to close next month. As of July 1, it had a population of 603.

The Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services notifed 89 employees their jobs were being eliminated; most, according to Barnes, work at Connecticut Valley Hospital, where the number of beds for the treatment of substance abuse are being reduced.

Barnes warned that the cutbacks will be felt across government.

“I would just say that all the agencies that are involved are going to be hard pressed to provide the same level of service after these layoffs have been implemented,” Barnes said.

Two managers in his office were given layoff notices.

While the administration had prepared a contingency list of about 4,700 positions to be eliminated months ago, that was of limited use to help make up the shortfall left by the rejected concession deal. Many agencies are just now completing their more targeted list of positions to be cut.

“This is dreadfully difficult,” he said.