Malloy: New concession deal with unions possible within 48 hours

TORRINGTON–Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Tuesday he hopes to negotiate a new tentative concession agreement with state employees in 24 or 48 hours, but his plan for mass layoffs will continue in case a new deal is not reached and ratified.

“We don’t have an approved agreement. We’ve been down this road. We will continue the process of notifications and laying people off, of moving forward as if there is no agreement in place,” Malloy said.

His negotiator, Mark Ojakian, met Tuesday with the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition, which set the stage for new talks Monday by easing the rules to ratify any new concession deal.

Hoadley Malloy

Tabitha Hoadley confronts Malloy over budget cuts.

“I’m certainly more hopeful today than I was Sunday, because they took that action,” Malloy told reporters after addressing a business group.

A concession and labor-savings deal valued by his administration at $1.6 billion over two years was endorsed by 11 of the coalition’s 15 unions and 57 percent of its voting members, but it failed under the old rules.

In bylaws adopted Monday, the SEBAC coalition needs approval from a simple majority: 8 of 15 unions; the previous threshold was 14 of 15 unions.

Ojakian and SEBAC’s chief negotiator, Daniel Livingston, are expected to discuss a new deal that clarifies the previous agreement, leaving the basic terms intact.

“I don’t think there’s any reason we couldn’t have a quick agreement in 24 , 48, some number of hours, as opposed to days or weeks,” Malloy said. “We should get it done. There are a lot of people whose lives are on the line, and certainly I want to get that resolved.”

His is one of those whose working lives is on the line – or least being affected. That was made clear at his first stop today, an economic-development pep talk to the Northwest Connecticut Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Students from a state technical high school in Wolcott greeted him with placards protesting one consequence of the first failed effort at a deal: the elimination of sports at their school.

As soon as his driver stopped the car, Malloy went over to the small group of teens and told them that the choice to cut sports was up to the state Board of Education – and that a new labor deal would lead to a restoration.

“Hopefully, all this can be avoided. That’s the whole plan, OK?” he told Tabitha Hoadley, a junior on the cross-country and track teams. “Listen, I want sports in schools.”

Inside, in a Q&A with chamber members, one woman expressed outrage that she found the restrooms closed at the rest area on I-84 in Danbury, another emergency cut ordered after the first deal was rejected.

“How unwelcoming,” said the woman, who described taking a fall last weekend and being unable to wash her wound.

“Understood,” Malloy said. “Point well made.”