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Working Hard to “Prevent an Economic Disaster”

“We have long recognized the seriousness of Connecticut’s fiscal condition,” said AFT Connecticut President Jan Hochadel, who sits on the steering committee for the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC). “Our members have always stepped up to protect our state’s quality of life and produce cost savings. That’s why we’ve engaged with the governor’s representatives since last fall to seek solutions,” added Hochadel, who previously worked in the Connecticut Technical High School System (CTHSS).
 
Hochadel’s comments refer to SEBAC leaders’ informal, exploratory discussions with the Malloy Administration that began in November of 2016. The efforts have continued since with the goal of finding mutually agreeable ways for state employees to once again help provide savings for taxpayers over the short and long term.
 
Click here to watch Hochadel’s SEBAC update for members of our AFT Connecticut-affiliated University Health Professionals (UHP) union.
 
“This process has been difficult as we try to protect our employees and our benefits, which are under pressure due to the state’s obvious fiscal challenges,” said John DiSette, an Associate Research Analyst at the Department of Labor with 21 years of experience in state service. “We are working to avoid layoffs, service cuts and reductions to pay, pensions and healthcare. We certainly have been putting in the time and effort to get this right on all levels,” added DiSette, who serves as president of our affiliated Administrative & Residual (A&R) Employees Union.
 
DiSette’s remarks refer to the governor’s recent public comments regarding the pace of the exploratory talks and his desire to soon reach a comprehensive cost savings agreement. SEBAC leaders have pushed for more frequent meetings with administration representatives, which have included Office of Policy and Management (OPM) Secretary Ben Barnes and the agency’s labor relations director, Lisa Egan.
 
Click here for press reporting on the governor’s latest remarks on possible labor cost savings.
 
“We’ve also been at the table negotiating successor agreements to our bargaining unit contracts,” said Judicial Professional Employees (JPE) Union president Carmen Roda. “We appreciate the governor’s concerns over timing, but getting to a mutually agreeable solution requires both sides to be ‘all in.’ For any agreement to work, it must recognize and respect our guiding principles since it will ultimately be up to our members to ratify it,” added Roda, an adult probation officer (APO) with 15 years experience in the Judicial Branch.
 
Roda’s comments refer to the latest round of state employee collective bargaining negotiations, which began in the summer of 2015 with talks focused on individual units’ wage and working conditions. The exploratory talks that began last fall have centered on the SEBAC 2011 agreement’s health and retirement benefits common to all union members and in place through 2022.
 
Click here for the current SEBAC 2011 agreement.
 
Those guiding principles become even more important in a political and economic atmosphere where talk of layoffs and service cuts are drowning out discussions aimed at a more balanced approach. With the governor and some lawmakers pushing failed austerity policies like those that wreaked havoc on the economy last year, the time to demand better choices is now.
 
Union members must unite with allies in communities across Connecticut to move our elected representatives to stop trying to balance the budget on the backs of working families. Only then will they seriously consider adopting “fair share” measures that ask hedge fund managers, CEOs and profitable big businesses to step up like state employees have in the past.
 
Click here to send a message to your legislators demanding they take a more balanced approach.
 
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