SEBAC: Most, not all, rank-and-file to vote on new deal

Not all rank-and-file members of the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition will get a chance to vote on the new tentative concession deal with the administration of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, the coalition said late Monday night.

In a message posted on its web site, a SEBAC spokesman said most of the 15 member unions in the coalition will present the tentative agreement for ratification votes to their full membership in the next three weeks, but an undisclosed number will not.

“Some are planning to have elected leadership cast their union’s vote because there are no negative changes in the revised TA (tentative agreement) as compared to the previous agreement,” spokesman Matt O’Connor wrote in a posting.

The brief update was posted after a long day of meetings to discuss ratification and clarify elements of the tentative agreement with the chief negotiator for the administration, Mark Ojakian.

The new deal gives the state’s unionized work force a second chance to consider a mix of short- and long-term labor savings that would avert mass layoffs and deep budget cuts and provide four years of job security and stabilize health costs.

No votes have been publicly scheduled, and the coalition has tightly controlled information since the tentative agreement was announced late Friday night, giving laid-off employees hope their jobs might be saved.

“In talks with the governor’s chief negotiator this afternoon, union leaders reaffirmed guarantees that job security language in the tentative agreement would be honored once it is ratified,” O’Connor wrote

The unions evidently were trying to address concerns that a no-layoff guarantee would not cover job losses caused by reorganizations.

“No agreement can prevent the governor or the legislature from making changes in government programs or services,” O’Connor wrote. “The revised TA means a current employee covered by job security protection can’t be laid off. In the case of programmatic or service changes, the state must place the employee in a comparable position – or compensated comparably until such a position is found.”

SEBAC’s leadership and Ojakian reached the new tentative agreement Friday, days after the coalition revised its bylaws to allow ratification by a simple majority of eight of the 15 unions.

Previously, a no vote by any two unions could block ratification, and the biggest of them, AFSCME Council 4, had veto power by itself.  No votes by Council 4 and three other unions killed an earlier agreement in June.

By the estimate of the Malloy Administration, the defeat of the earlier agreement left a $1.6 billion gap in the two-year, $40 billion budget for the biennium that began July 1. To balance the budget, Malloy ordered deep budget cuts and the elimination of 6,500 jobs.

The legislature is expected to hold public hearings Aug. 15 on the budget revisions, unless SEBAC ratifies the new deal.