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Unions voting on state employee concessions

by Richard Veilleux - May 4, 2009


Representatives of the four largest labor organizations at UConn will join other unions from across the state on May 8 to share the results of local balloting regarding pay freezes and furlough days.

If the unions comprising the State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC) report that their members agreed to some form of salary freeze and furlough days, that would bring to a conclusion a negotiations process that began in November 2008.

The tentative agreement – signed by SEBAC and the state – increases employee health care costs, offers a retirement incentive, and allows the state to defer $128 million in payments into the State Employee Retirement System, among a list of changes.

In return for an estimated $730 million in statewide concessions, the state and the public employee unions, as well as University officials, agreed there would be no layoffs of permanent employees through June 30, 2011. The protection was not offered to University Health Professionals (UHP), however.

SEBAC represents all state employees at the bargaining table in contract matters concerning state employee pensions and health and dental benefits, but individual unions bargain locally on all other issues.

Most state unions negotiate directly with the state Office of Policy and Management or representatives of the governor’s office. The University of Connecticut Professional Employees Association (UCPEA), the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), and UHP negotiate with University officials.

UCPEA and AAUP conducted their negotiations jointly, resulting in a tentative agreement for a pay freeze and furlough days, in return for a no-layoff agreement from UConn. UHP officials negotiated with management representatives at the UConn Health Center.

UCPEA members supported the agreement with the University, which includes the pay freeze originally due in July and seven furlough days – one on May 22 and the other six spread evenly during the next two years. The vote was 861-194.

UHP members supported their agreement with a vote of 1,075-269. Their agreement includes two options, one that includes furlough days and a pay freeze in July if the state legislature includes the cost of the fringe benefit differential in the Health Center’s biennium appropriation (currently $13.5 million each year), and one that gives members their regular increase and includes no furlough days should the legislature not appropriate the fringe benefit funding.

That option would likely lead to job cuts. It is expected, however, that the fringe benefit costs will be included in the final budget.

Meanwhile, AAUP members are currently voting, with results due May 7. Results of the Connecticut Employee Union Independent (CEUI) vote are expected the same day. Members of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) vote May 5. CEUI and AFSCME, along with the faculty and professional staff unions, are the largest of the seven unions at UConn.

Results from the local balloting will be delivered to SEBAC May 8, when the pact with the state is expected to be finalized. However, under SEBAC bylaw provisions, if several unions that hold a vote with SEBAC do not approve their financial concessions, the entire deal could be voided.

While the University agreed to job protection language with AAUP and UCPEA, the two unions agreed to consider further discussions with the University should the economy continue to decline or if the governor uses her authority to order more rescissions. SEBAC’s agreement with the state also includes an option to reconvene for further discussions in the event of a worst case economic scenario.

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