The Hartford American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union rejected a contract Thursday that would have saved the city close to $4 million, according to the Hartford Courant.
AFSCME Council 4, Local 1716, which represents about 400 workers, overwhelmingly voted down a contract that called for a four year wage freeze, followed by two years of pay increases. The contract would have run retroactively from July 2015 through June 2021.
Hartford city officials have been scrambling to solve a $65 million deficit next year and a $14 million deficit this year. While area unions have pledged publicly to support city leaders in their efforts to solve a deepening fiscal crisis, the city is inching towards chapter 9 bankruptcy. Democratic Mayor Luke Bronin acknowledged May 9 that the city was searching for law firms that specialize in chapter 9 bankruptcy, a sign that the city could be close to filing for bankruptcy protections.
The rejected vote only exacerbates the city’s financial woes. Bronin, who is pleading the state for tens of millions of dollars in additional aid, released a spending plan that included $4 million more in concessions from labor unions.
“This was a fair agreement that would have saved money and made meaningful structural changes, while securing fair compensation for hundreds of employees,” Bronin said after the vote. “The agreement was the product of long and thoughtful negotiations, and at a time of fiscal crisis, this was a moment for the union members to step up and be part of the solution.”
The contract called for higher dental premiums and switched the employees to a high-deductible health plan, according to the Courant. The union and city will now likely head to arbitration.
“The members have clearly spoken,” Local 1716 spokesperson Larry Dorman said to the Courant. “We will reassess and figure out our next steps and what we can do to protect the vital services they provide to the city of Hartford.”
The city has only been able to reach an agreement with one union this year. The city and its fire fighters agreed to a contract that massively overhauled its pension and health care plan.
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