Malloy ups pressure on unions as concession vote nears conclusion

With state employee unions about to enter the final week of voting on concessions, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration Friday stepped up the pressure with its first explicit statement that layoffs will continue in bargaining units that don’t agree to wage freezes–even if the overall package of health and benefit givebacks is approved.

Malloy’s budget chief, Office of Policy and Management Secretary Benjamin Barnes wrote to department leaders reminding them that if the entire concession package is rejected, or if select bargaining units reject the wage freeze and therefore forfeit layoff protection, “layoffs should continue to he carried out and facilities and programs shut down based on the budget-balancing plan submitted to the legislature.”

If the concession package is approved, layoffs will be rescinded for members of bargaining units that agreed to the wage freeze, Barnes said. But the memo contains bad news for non-union employees and managers who also were laid off following rejection of the initial concession deal in June: They will “not necessarily” keep their jobs even if the concessions are approved, he said.

However, the memo leaves an opening for agency heads to appeal on a case-by-case basis for recission of individual layoffs of non-union personnel and of union employees whose units rejected the wage freeze.

The governor’s July 15 report to the legislature on how to balance the budget without concessions eliminated funding for more than 6,500 jobs across all three branches of government, and included 3,600 layoffs in the Executive Branch. The plan also eliminates thousands of jobs through retirements and attrition.

Malloy has noted repeatedly that some layoffs were a distinct possibility if he received only a portion of the $1.6 billion worth of concessions he is seeking from 45,000 unionized employees. His July 15 scenario was an alternative method of balancing the budget if all concessions are rejected.

But it wasn’t until Friday that he made it clear that it also would be a template for a modified layoff plan in the event only some of the concessions sought were approved.

The concession package has two parts. One is a benefits agreement that would apply to all members of the 15 unions that are part of the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition, or SEBAC. The agreement includes a new employee wellness plan, new restrictions on pension and other retirement benefits, and other efficiency initiatives. These represent nearly three-quarters of the $1.6 billion in projected concession savings across two years.

Although a majority of union members voting approved the SEBAC deal during an earlier round of voting in June, the rules in effect at the time also required that membership of 14 of 15 constituent unions agreed to the change. The current round of voting is under new rules that require approval by a majority of all members and by eight of the 15 unions.

The other part of the package is a wage freeze that is being voted on individually by each of the 34 bargaining units contained within the 15 parent unions. This part of the deal also includes a four-year no-layoff guarantee–but only if the overall SEBAC deal passes and the individual unit agrees to the freeze.

During the June vote, 8 bargaining units representing 17,300 workers rejected the wage freeze.

It was unclear Friday how many employees from those eight bargaining units were among the 3,600 targeted for layoffs in the governor’s July 15 plan.

Matt O’Connor, a spokesman for the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition, said during a union rally Friday in Bushnell Park that labor leaders are focused on urging members to pass the concession package.

“We’re reminding members of the fact that this provides four years of protection against layoffs,” he said, “and in this economy that is a critically valuable asset.”