A big vote by one of Hartford’s largest unions today could bring the city a step closer to seeking state oversight of its budget crisis.
The NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters confirm the Hartford Municipal Employees Association (HMEA) voted 140-2 to remain in arbitration, and not reopen its contract and renegotiate. This was first reported by the blog We The People Hartford.
HMEA president J. Sean Antoine tells Chief Investigative Reporter Len Besthoff the union’s contract with the city expired June 30th, 2014. He said the city and the HMEA have entered into binding arbitration which is ongoing. While the terms of the contract remain in effect, union members, which include supervisors and administrative employees in departments across the city, have not had a raise or cost of living adjustment in three years.
Antoine tells the Troubleshooters Mayor Luke Bronin could not guarantee there wouldn’t be layoffs even if the union left arbitration and made givebacks. Some of those givebacks included HMEA members increasing their pension and health insurance contributions each by 1%. Antoine says the HMEA even made several suggestions on where the city could combine departments with duplicate functions knowing that it could eliminate some of its members’ jobs.
The Troubleshooters reached out to Mayor Bronin’s office for a comment on this development. So far the mayor’s office has not responded or issued a statement. Bronin said earlier this week that entering into a state oversight arrangement is one of several options his administration is considering to stave off a projected budget deficit of $32 million in the upcoming 2016-17 fiscal year, that is expected to balloon to $48 million in the following year.