Connecticut Senate Approves Union Concessions Deal - NBC Connecticut

Connecticut Senate Approves Union Concessions Deal

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Labor Agreement Could Save Billions

    (Published Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2017)

    On a party-line, 18-18 vote with the Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman breaking the tie, the Connecticut Senate approved a labor concessions deal, which ratified it.

    The agreement has been the subject of prolonged debate since the Malloy Administration announced the milestone back in May.

    The State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition is the group of more than 30 bargaining units that negotiate as a group with the governor’s administration.

    “This agreement ties the hands of future legislatures,” Sen. Len Fasano said.

    The agreement provides $1.5 billion in immediate savings over the next two fiscal years, freezes wages for three years, mandates higher payments for health care by state employees and creates a new tier of retirement benefits for future hires.

    However, Republicans focused on other portions of the agreement which they say set the state up for future fiscal turmoil.

    The deal includes a four-year prohibition on layoffs and an extension of the existing union contract to 2027.

    "Nowhere in the country will you find four years of job security," Fasano said of the layoff provision.

    Democrats warned that without the agreement in place it would set the state up for more cuts and possible tax increases since the labor savings account for 30 percent of all reductions in the budget over the next two years.

    "We’re going to respect our workers and their right to collectively bargain and this is a reasonable negotiation, and reasonable result both for the state and its unionized workers," Sen. Martin Looney, the top Democrat in the Senate, said.

    The passage of the agreement was uncertain early in the day Monday, as three Democrats were holdouts with concerns about the budget consequences of such an agreement.

    The three senators, Joan Hartley, Gayle Slossberg and Paul Doyle later drafted a list of future demands that must be met to secure their votes. They have to do with evaluating the health of the teachers' retirement system and to come up with a revenue stream aimed at tackling the state’s unfunded pension liabilities. All three spoke on the Senate floor in similar terms, describing the union agreement as imperfect but needed for the current fiscal crisis.

    The Senate vote was the final passage of the agreement, making it effective.

    Gov. Dannel Malloy focused on the creation of the new retirement plan that changes from a defined benefit plan to a hybrid with a traditional private employer 401k plan, which he has pointed to as the key to future savings over the next 20 years.

    "This is $24.5 billion in savings over a twenty year period of time. It creates a new class of state employees for which the benefits will be almost entirely self-funded and if we don’t pass it that would be a disaster for the state," Malloy said. 

    Even with the agreement’s passage, Connecticut is still without a state budget. August will mark one full month into the 2018 fiscal year and there is no spending plan in place.

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