BY MARTIN KICH
In the face of opposition from the Democrats and the Republicans in the state legislature, not to mention Governor Malloy, the Connecticut state senate’s vote on the contract between UConn and UCPEA was postponed on a technicality: “‘There was an inadvertent error in the supercedence appendix attached to the collective bargaining agreement when it was filed with the House and Senate clerks. The entire agreement with the corrected supercedence appendix must be filed again with the clerks. We believe in the collective bargaining process. The next step in that process is to now go back to the UCPEA members for them to decide how they will proceed.’”
The state is facing large budget deficits, and according to the Hartford Courant, the contract calls for a 3 percent raise in the first year and then 4.5 percent increases in each of the next four years–along with increasing the workweek from 35 hours to 40 hours. So the university and its faculty union are clearly being forced back to the bargaining table to come up with a contract that is more politically expedient.
A much lengthier, follow-up article in the Hartford Courant includes the following additional information:
“The fast-breaking developments were extraordinary because the state legislature has not rejected any union contracts since May 1997 when Republican John G. Rowland served in office. Republicans have charged that Democrats have been afraid to make any moves against contracts for the past 19 years because union leaders and their members often provide the crucial difference in tight elections to help Democrats get elected.
“House Speaker] Sharkey said the withdrawal of the contract Friday in the face of certain defeat was ‘unprecedented in recent history.’ . . .
“Since the union cannot unilaterally decide to renegotiate the contract, UConn must also agree. A university spokeswowan said that UConn believes the deal is fair, but the legislature has the final decision. If the contract is resubmitted with the glitch fixed, then a new 30-day decision period would begin for the legislature . . .
“The non-teaching professionals in the union work as admissions assistants, financial aid specialists, librarians, and mental health counselors, among others.
“The contract has been among the hottest issues recently in the busy legislative session, and a longtime insider says the contract is the most important union vote at the Capitol in the past 10 years.
“Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney of New Haven and Majority Leader Bob Duff of Norwalk issued a strongly worded statement against the pact.
“’Yesterday, Senate leadership informed union leaders that Senate Democrats were going to vote down the UCPEA contract,’ they said. ‘The current contract is not only unsustainable but an awful contract for Connecticut’s taxpayers.
“’Senate Democrats will not vote for a contract that doesn’t reflect our economic reality,’ they said. ‘This contract will lead to massive layoffs and painful tuition increases forcing talented Connecticut students out of state.’ . . .
“Sharkey repeatedly emphasized that his criticisms were with UConn management, not the union.
“’The concerns that I’ve been raising are really directed at UConn for their failure to negotiate this contract with the sense of reality that we’re facing from a fiscal standpoint,’ he said. ‘The bargaining unit did nothing wrong here, they negotiated this contract in good faith and I think they deserve all the credit for being willing to hear the concerns that have been raised.’ . . .
“Sharkey was also sharply critical of Malloy, publicly scolding him for not speaking out earlier on the contract. . . .
“Mark Bergman, Malloy’s deputy chief of staff, said that Sharkey is looking for a scapegoat because he was unable to get the job done in the House.
“’The fact is, unlike Senate Democratic leadership, the Speaker was unable to muster votes against the contract in appropriations, despite his best personal efforts,’ Bergman said. ‘Now he’s trying to deflect attention away from his own inability to manage his caucus. The simple reality is that the governor’s intervention is what lead to this contract being withdrawn. The Speaker should stop looking for other people to do his own heavy lifting.’”
Both articles in the Hartford Courant that I have referenced have been written by Christopher Keating.
The first article is available online at: http://www.courant.com/politics/capitol-watch/hc-glitch-in-uconn-contract-causes-delay-no-votes-today-20160304-story.html.
The second article is available online at: http://www.courant.com/politics/capitol-watch/hc-glitch-in-uconn-contract-causes-delay-no-votes-today-20160304-story.html.