Six Bargaining Units Get Contract Extensions

 By Christine Stuart August 1, 2016

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration is still negotiating wages and working conditions with 14 bargaining units even though the June 30 deadline for their previous contracts with the state has expired.

At least six of the bargaining units have extensions in place and at least three of those six are represented by AFSCME Council 4.

According to the extension agreements, most, but not all of the labor rights in the expired wage contract will continue. However, there will be no cost of living increase for July, and no step payments or tuition reimbursement until a new finalized contract is in place.

The Office of Labor Relations has hired two outside law firms — Berchem, Moses and Devlin of Milford, and Pullman and Comley of Hartford — to help it negotiate 14 union contracts. The cap on each contract is $400,000.

The 2017 budget that lawmakers approved in May reduces salary accounts by $255 million and asks the administration to find an additional $69 million in employee savings.

Already Malloy’s administration has laid off 825 executive branch employees and the Judicial Branch has laid off 300. That brings the total number of laid off employees up to around 1,125. The administration has declined to say whether the layoffs will continue or whether they are done.

“There is no specific target number,” Gian-Carl Casa, undersecretary for legislative affairs with the Office of Policy and Management, has said. “We will continue to work with state agencies to achieve necessary savings while providing core services.”

The layoffs became necessary, according to the administration, when the labor unions refused to reopen their contract for health and pension benefits earlier this year. That contract, which is an umbrella agreement for all state labor unions, doesn’t expire until 2022.

“Keep in mind that your fringe benefits remain in effect and fully protected, thanks to the SEBAC health and pension agreement that runs through 2022,” AFSCME Council 4 reminded its members in a monthly newsletter.

According to administration sources, none of the negotiations regarding wages and working conditions have reached the final stages.

In March, Malloy said he expected the negotiations over wages and working conditions to have a bigger impact on the state budget than either layoffs or changes to health and pension benefits.

Malloy has also said the number of layoffs was contingent on the number of retirements.

The state is also seeing higher-than-anticipated retirement filings, with approximately 947 requests filed since April 1 on a total of 1,453 retirements so far this year. That means almost 1,996 state employees have left state service or are about to leave state service and their positions are not being refilled. Overall, the pace of retirement filings by state employees is 29 percent more than it was in 2015 for the first six months of the year.

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