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Conn., union leaders reach deal on $1.6b savings plan

By Susan Haigh
Associated Press / May 14, 2011

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HARTFORD — Governor Dannel P. Malloy and state employees union leaders announced a tentative deal yesterday that covers $1.6 billion of the $2 billion in labor savings the governor was seeking over two years to balance Connecticut’s deficit-plagued budget and protects unionized state employees’ jobs for the next four years.

The agreement needs to be ratified by the state’s 45,000 unionized workers. They will be briefed on the details in the coming days and asked to vote on the wage and benefit changes, as well as salary changes including a two-year pay freeze, over the next several weeks in two separate votes.

The Democratic governor called the agreement, reached after weeks of closed-door talks, historic and said it will save taxpayers $21.5 billion over the next 20 years, mostly through changes to benefits packages.

In the meantime, Malloy said the remaining $400 million gap needed to balance the two-year $40.1 billion budget will be covered with additional spending cuts and existing revenues.

“Our agreement is historic in every way because of the way we achieved it,’’ Malloy said at the state Capitol, surrounded by Democratic legislative leaders. “We respected the collective bargaining process and we respected each other, negotiating in good faith, without fireworks and without anger.’’

Malloy also agreed to rescind nearly 5,000 threatened layoff notices issued this week to state workers and said the agreement contains no furlough days and no change in the 40-hour workweek.

Both Republican legislative leaders questioned the administration’s decision to promise no layoffs of unionized workers for the next four years.

They have been protected from layoffs for the past two years because of a 2009 concession deal reached when M. Jodi Rell was governor. They said that Malloy’s plan also extends the 20-year contract on health and benefits — something Malloy has strongly criticized John G. Rowland, another former governor, for signing — for five years, from 2017 to 2022.

“So if our economy gets significantly worse . . . we can’t right-size or downsize state government to deal with those economic conditions by even letting go of a single person,’’ said Senate minority leader John McKinney, a Fairfield Republican.