Matt O’Connor, a spokesman for the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition, this afternoon said he is confident that in the coming days and weeks the group’s 15 union leaders will find a way to ratify a concessions package worth $1.6 billion.
Sources say union heads are meeting at an undisclosed location all day tomorrow.
The General Assembly is in special session today to help Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy deal with the $1.6 billion hole left in their budget when the unions shot down the concessions package last weekend.
Malloy is moving ahead with thousands of layoffs and expected to be granted authority to enact deep budget cuts.
The Senate today is also debating a bill, pursued by Malloy, intended to implement some of the salary and pension reforms that had been part of the SEBAC givebacks.
The unions are against the move, arguing those issues should be left to the collective bargaining process.
O’Connor said ultimately none of those actions will be needed.
“We are confident we’re going to come up with a resolution,” O’Connor said. “We’re going to find a way to save the state $1.6 billion.”
House Speaker Chris Donovan, D-Meriden, a longtime ally of organized labor, is giving the unions some breathing room. He just confirmed to reporters rumors the House will not be taking up the salary and pension reforms today. That does not mean they go away. They are just in limbo awaiting a House vote.
“We don’t need to take them up today,” Donovan said. “If there’s no agreement we may be dealing with those issues.”
Asked if the reforms were being used to pressure SEBAC into finding some way to push the $1.6 billion worth of givebacks through, Donovan said, “I would think state employees would take notice that the bill is alive and on our calendar.”
Roy Occhiogrosso, Malloy’s chief advisor, said it is House leadership’s prerogative to move ahead or not with the salary and pension reforms.
“The governor supports the bill, thinks it’s an issue whose time has come,” he said.
Asked if Malloy put the changes on the table to put pressure on SEBAC, Occhiogrosso said, “Everybody tries to read into everything you do around here.”
“The governor’s been talking about long term structural reform since the campaign … The SEBAC agreement put us on that road. Once that was tabled, he wanted to revisit the issue.”