A coalition representing about 45,000 unionized state employees announced today its members have overwhelmingly ratified a new concession agreement, reversing the rejection of a nearly identical deal in June that triggered mass layoffs.
The ratification by the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition allows Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to shelve deep budget cuts and to rescind more than 3,000 layoff notices that had been issued as of last week.
It took two tries and a controversial change in SEBAC’s voting rules, but the leaders of the 15-union coalition today delivered a 25,713-to-9,291 vote that protects most union jobs for four years in return for a two-year pay freeze and pension and health changes.
“Our members have spoken decisively and overwhelmingly,” said Dawn Tyson, an AFSCME officer who works in the Department of Social Services
Only one of 34 bargaining units within the 15 unions, a CSEA/SEIU Local 2001 affiliate representing about 400 correction supervisors, voted 189 to 154 to turn down the wage freeze part of the deal, leaving their members vulnerable to layoff.
But rank-and-file correction officers, who voted 2,646 to 1,158 to reject the first deal, supported ratification this time, 2,118 to 1,148.
Eleven of 15 unions voted for the previous version, but the original rules required ratification by 14 unions, plus the largest member, AFSCME Council 4. The revised rules required a majority of eight unions, and AFSCME no longer had a veto.
For all the furor created by the rules change, the agreement would have been approved in the revote even under the old rules. Fourteen unions, including AFSCME, approved the agreement in the latest balloting, according to SEBAC officials. The Connecticut State Police Union is still voting. Troopers rejected the deal in June, but their decision either way won’t affect the outcome this time.
The ratification was announced at a jubilant midday news conference, with rank-and-file union members taking turns at the microphone.
“Our vote is a victory for public services,” said Jordyn O’Donovan, a fraud investigator for the state Department of Social Services. Without ratification, O’Donovan one-year career as a state emloyee would have ended next week, when her own layoff was to take effect.
“We state employees took charge and helped keep families from slipping out of the middle class,” added Kathy Fischer of the University of Connecticut Women’s Center.
No one in the crowded room stepped forward when reporters asked to hear from a union member who voted to reject the first deal, then changed their mind on the revised version.
For Malloy, whose narrow election last year relied heavily on labor support, the vote ends a tense six months of jousting with unions, which threatened an irrevocable break in a vital political relationship for the Democratic governor.
The governor responded to the vote with a mix of satisfaction and fiscal realism.
“We have achieved something the skeptics said was unachievable: we’ve made the relationship between the state and its workforce sustainable,” Malloy said in a statement. “And, unlike in most other states, we did it without going to war with public employees.”
But, he added, the state is not without fiscal challenges.
“While this is a good day, and we should all be grateful to everyone who helped make this agreement happen, we need a lot more good days before any of us can feel satisfied,” Malloy said.
Malloy claims the deal will save the state $1.6 billion over two years, a figure the legislature’s non-partisan Office of Fiscal Analysis says it has been unable to confirm with the data shared by the administration.
But the administration has tried to cast the deal as of greater import over the long-term, pointing to an actuarial analysis that says the state will save $21 billion over the next two decades.
Over the near-term, the biggest impact of the concessions is the pay freeze and a change that will encourage employees to work longer by doubling the penalty for early retirement, which is now allowed at age 55. The early-retirement reduction of benefits will double from 3 percent ot 6 percent, and retirees will have to contribute more to their health coverage.
In 2022, the normal retirement age will rise. For an employee with 25 years of service, it will go from 60 to 63. For an employee with 10 years of service, it will go from 62 to 65.
Another change that the administration says will produce long-term savings is a new wellness program. In return for a cap on costs, participants must adhere to an aggressive program of preventive care.
The 14 unions voting yes:
- New England Health Care Employees Union, District 1199/SEIU, representing 7,700 nurses, doctors, social workers, technicians and others in a various of agencies and facilities, including the UConn Health Center.
- AAUP at the University of Connecticut, representing 2,000 faculty and researchers at the main campus in Storrs and regional campuses in West Hartford, Waterbury, Torrington, Stamford and Avery Point.
- Connecticut Association of Prosecutors, representing 260 state prosecutors.
- Connecticut Federation of School Administrators, representing 61 principals and others at 18 vocational technical high schools.
- Connecticut Police and Fire union, representing about 900 public-safety personnel across state government, with the exception of state police officers.
- AFT Connecticut, representing 6,800 employees in higher education, health care, vocational education and other areas.
- AAUP in the Connecticut State University system, representing 1,150 faculty, counselors and others.
- AAUP at the UConn Health Center, representing 550 faculty.
- Administrative & Residual Union, representing 3,300 state administrative workers.
- Congress of Community Colleges, representing 2,000 faculty and professional staff.
- CSEA/SEIU Local 2001, representing 3,900 workers, ranging from bridge inspectors to state police supervisors.
- Connecticut Employees Union Independent, representing 4,500 maintenance and service employees.
- AFSCME Council 4, representing 15,600 employees across state government, inlcuding correction officers, social workers, higher-education administrators, and clerical workers.
- IBPO/SEIU Local 731, representing 750 judicial marshals
- Connecticut State Police Union, representing 1,150 troopers, sergeants and master sergeants..