Governor Dannel Malloy has signed a tentative agreement with state employee union leaders which he says will save the state $1.5 billion over the next two years. The contract is an attempt to help the state plug an approximately $5 billion budget gap in the upcoming biennium.
The Democratic governor had threatened as many as 4,200 layoffs from state agencies if an agreement wasn’t reached.
The deal freezes wages for three years, and makes adjustments to pension and health care benefits to achieve the savings. In return, the contract will remain in place for ten years – a five-year extension to what was originally proposed.
That’s the sticking point for many Republican legislators, who say the contract leaves the state with too little flexibility.
Lori Pelletier, President of the Connecticut AFL-CIO, said she sees it as a fair deal.
"The state needs a billion and a half dollars saved, and workers need to make sure that they have their own protections," she told WNPR. "That’s the give-and-take of collective bargaining. Really what many Republicans are saying is that they don’t want collective bargaining – they want to be able to lay people off and cut healthcare. That’s not Connecticut – that’s not the way we should operate."
The contract now goes to the members of the various unions that make up the bargaining coalition; a final vote is not expected for about a month.
"It's a good deal because it preserves services; it provides some job security for state employees; and quite honestly, it keeps Connecticut working," Pelletier said. "State employees have done the right thing time after time, and we're hoping that they are supportive of this tentative agreement for the state, but for their jobs as well."