Connecticut public employee unions asked to swallow same cuts again
By David Godow
Public sector union leaders and Governor Dan Malloy reached a "tentative agreement" on Friday over cuts to state employees' compensation that would save the state up to $1.6 billion over two years. The current deal is almost exactly the same as the package of cuts rejected by the union rank-and-file in June. Now, however, unions have to wrestle with Malloy's threat of massive layoffs if his proposal is not approved, with 1,800 pink slips already issued by state administrators.
The next hurdle for the new agreement is the same one that undid its counterpart last month; approval by members of the state's 15 public employee unions. This time, however, union bylaws have been changed to only require a simple majority of members to accept the deal. In June, essentially the same proposal faced much stricter requirements for acceptance: 80 percent of all members and a majority in 14 out of 15 unions.
1,800 layoffs and looser union voting rules may do wonders for an agreement that imposes a three-year wage freeze, cuts health and pension benefits, and recoups automatic raises doled out to state workers in the last month. Malloy turned up the pressure on union leaders by promising to rescind the layoffs if the deal was accepted. He also introduced a spartan austerity package in the legislature, his "Plan B" to cut spending if a union deal fell through, which would have laid off 6,5000 state workers, closed a number of regional DMV branches, canceled car ferries across the Connecticut River, and made other unpopular cuts.
Malloy also made several concessions in his revamped plan, allowing state workers until October 2 to retire before compensation changes take effect, rather than September 2. He also guaranteed union workers would not be put into a state-run universal health care system called SustiNet.
Given the arm-twisting union leaders have done in changing voting bylaws, it seems likely the deal, which received the support of 57 percent of members last time around, will be passed. The main question now is how soon.
- The New York Times, "Tentative Deal Is Reached in Connecticut Between Governor and Unions," July 23, 2011.
- NBC Connecticut, "Unions Prepare to Vote on Deal," July 25, 2011.