Politics

Connecticut Governor Faces Major Roadblock In Union Reform Push

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Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy hit a major setback in his public-sector labor overhaul with the top state labor agent claiming he cannot renegotiate worker benefits.

Malloy has worked since Feb. 3 to rein in expensive public-sector benefits to address state budget problems. His administration reached out to the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC) last week to request it open the 2011 public-sector contract for health and pension benefits. SEBAC responded March 17 it didn’t have the authority to reopen the contract without a vote.

“We do not have the authority to enter into the discussions you suggest without the specific direction of our elected rank and file leadership,” SEBAC Chief Negotiator Daniel Livingston wrote in a letter released Sunday by CTNewsJunkie. “We would be happy to have a meeting with you and/or other appropriate representatives of the Administration about your view of the state’s fiscal situation and we will share our perspective as well.”

Without a vote by the SEBAC Executive Board the governor will have to wait until 2022 for the contract to expire. Malloy spokesman Devon Puglia said the administration is disappointed SEBAC chose to respond with a press request but SEBAC responded it didn’t discuss the request with a press release but rather a letter to its members.

“But we’re more alarmed, if not completely stunned, at the ludicrous rationale given as to why long-term benefits cannot or should not be part of the discussion,” Puglia responded according to The CT Mirror. “SEBAC should come to the table and talk about benefits.”

Malloy also plans to cut the budgets for state agencies. His plan could involve over a thousand public-sector jobs being eliminated through both attrition and layoffs. He hopes to save the state $570 million in the coming fiscal year. His proposed $20 billion state budget will not include any tax increases.

Republican and Democratic state lawmakers praised the plan but state unions have denounced it. The state has failed to rebound from the most recent recession because of unusually slow economic growth. The budget cuts are aimed at finally pushing the state out of fiscal difficulty.

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