Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's administration had not yet agreed on Wednesday to a request from state employee union leaders to restart talks after a union savings and concessions deal failed.
Malloy said he first needs to know how they now plan to pass an agreement.
When asked if he'd be willing to have his chief labor negotiator talk with the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition, he unenthusiastically responded, "I suppose."
But the Democratic governor said he's pressing ahead with plans to lay off approximately 6,500 state employees and make the wide-ranging budget cuts that are needed to balance the new, two-year, $40.1 billion state budget without the anticipated $1.6 billion in labor savings.
"I'm working really hard at going in the other direction, which is doing what we have to do to be in the position to execute the budget in its present form," he said, referring to the $1.6 billion gap. Malloy has until July 15 to submit his proposed reductions to the General Assembly.
On Tuesday, SEBAC leaders sent Malloy a letter asking to “reconvene discussions” with the administration to come up with a plan to somehow stop the looming layoffs. Some state employees have already begun to receive pink slips, but many are not expected to leave the state's payroll until September because of various notification requirements and the process of senior employees being able to “bump” less senior co-workers and remain employed.
Malloy said he doesn't want to lay off workers and it would further harm Connecticut's economy.
However, he needs assurances from the union leaders they can pass an agreement this time, he said.
Malloy has said he will not agree to renegotiate the deal reached with union leaders, which promised four years of no layoffs in return for a three-year wage freeze and changes in pension and health benefits. Malloy has said he's open to clarifying the deal to members, however.
Union leaders, who represent about 45,000 state employees, have been struggling to find a way to avoid the layoffs after the deal was rejected by only four of the 15 SEBAC unions, or 57 percent of those who cast votes. Under the coalition's current bylaws, at least 14 of the 15 unions have to vote to support any changes to the coveted, 20-year health and retirement benefit agreement that's in place until 2017.
Last week, the same leaders rejected a motion to amend the coalition's bylaws to retroactively affect the vote, saying they wanted to respect the wishes of their members who opposed the deal. However, they did adopt a resolution to consider future changes to the bylaws that would govern future labor agreements. Those bylaws were still being reviewed.