Layoff notices sent to 3,008 state workers
Pressure mounts: Number of state workers to receive pink slips tops 3,000
Published 10:30 am, Thursday, July 28, 2011
HARTFORD -- Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Wednesday ratcheted up the pressure on state unions, announcing that more than 3,000 layoff notices have now gone out, including 1,157 in the last week.
Roy Occhiogrosso, the governor's senior adviser, admitted to reporters that while the now-weekly announcements of layoffs are not aimed at persuading the 45,000 full-time employees, if it works toward that end, it's OK.
"If that has an effect, an impact, in a way that helps ratify the agreement, then that's an unintended consequence, although perhaps a welcome one," Occhiogrosso said in the Capitol.
If eight of the 15 state unions approve a proposed deal on health and pension benefit concessions, most of the layoffs will be rescinded.
Occhiogrosso said the atmosphere around the new round of voting may have changed since June, when the proposal was shot down, although 57 percent of state workers approved the deal.
"I think it's also safe to say that there's a little bit of a different environment this time," Occhiogrosso said. "I think the consequences of an agreement failing are a little bit more clear to people. There seems to be less confusion about what's in the agreement."
Those unions that do not approve a two-year wage freeze would not be eligible for a four-year promise of no layoffs. But until the possible ratification -- an anticipated three weeks for unions to collect votes -- Malloy is proceeding with cost-cutting measures.
In all, 3,008 notices have reached employees, and 158 workers have been separated from state employment. By mid-August, the time when union voting may be completed, about 600 may have lost their jobs, although they would be called back if the concessions are ratified.
If the unions reject the concessions for a second time, about 6,560 positions would be terminated, including 1,000 vacant posts. Associated programming cuts would include the closure of courthouses and DMV offices.
Benjamin Barnes, Malloy's budget chief who is secretary of the Office of Policy and Management, said the layoff notices have to continue because if the unions again reject concessions, spending has to be reduced by $700 million in the budget year that began July 1, and cut by $900 million in the following fiscal year.
"Telling them that they can come back to work is going to be a whole lot easier," Barnes said. "While it's not ideal to lay somebody off and potentially bring them back shortly thereafter, we feel that we need to go forward with the plan that we have in place until we have certainty that we can go forward with a different plan."
Barnes said "adjustments" are being made on other spending cuts that might affect state programs.
He said that one of the initial rounds of layoffs affected mental-health beds in Middletown, but the Malloy administration changed the schedule for eliminating them and instead would phase them out over time, if the concessions are rejected.
Barnes said commissioners of state departments are being given "latitude" on facility closures, including motor vehicle offices. On July 15th, Malloy released the targets for potential elimination if the unions fail to confirm the concessions.
Union leaders expect the rank-and-file to finish voting by Aug. 15 and formal ratification among the 15 unions by Aug. 18, said Matt O'Connor, spokesman for the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC).
On Wednesday, SEBAC representatives met to review the different unions' plans for voting on the revised agreement. O'Connor said that more than 80 percent of the unions will have a full revote of their membership. Others, whose members approved the initial agreement, will let their leaders again ratify the agreement, while others may not yet have decided on the voting process, O'Connor said.
"In meetings and surveys after the previous agreement failed to pass, many members have said that they were exposed to misinformation and misrepresentation of the consequences of a `no' vote," O'Connor said in a statement on SEBAC's website. "And of course it is important that members understand the changes in the revised agreement that respond to some of the concerns members had raised."