The Associated Press July 25, 2011, 6:27PM ET

Conn. tentative union deal stops pay raises

A newly clarified labor savings and concessions agreement reached between state employees and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy requires thousands of workers to give up their new pay raises, which kicked in this month after an earlier deal wasn't ratified.

The latest tentative agreement, reached late Friday night, would extend a two-year wage freeze to cover the cost of raises employees receive this week before a deal is ratified, said Malloy's senior adviser, Roy Occhiogrosso.

"That wage freeze would be extended by however many pay periods raises go out this year," he said.

Workers are scheduled to begin receiving the raises in their paychecks on July 29.

Occhiogrosso said state employees could receive their larger paychecks for a total of two or three weeks, depending on how long it takes the approximately 45,000 unionized workers to ratify the agreement. More than 30 bargaining units are set to receive raises ranging from 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent because the wage freeze included in the original agreement wasn't ratified last month.

The estimated cost of the raises has ranged from $3 million to $5 million per pay period.

Dana Havens, a direct care worker at a Department of Development Services group home in Farmington, received a layoff notice and faces losing her job on Aug. 4. Havens, who voted for the agreement last month, said none of her co-workers is really talking about the extended pay freeze, which will be followed by three years of raises.

"We're kind of used to giving up money," she said. "It's really more about retirement, health care. That's really the biggest issue."

Havens said she hopes her fellow union members will ratify the agreement this time around. She said some people who work in her group home and voted no are now prepared to vote yes. But she said another worker, who voted no and is close to retirement, still plans to vote against it.

The State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition, which represents 15 state worker unions, hasn't announced how long it will take for the rank-and-file members to either approve or defeat the deal. Last time, the process took several weeks. Union officials have said they want to complete the process as soon as possible because people like Havens are losing their jobs but each union and bargaining unit must decide how to proceed.

Malloy, a Democrat, said Monday that layoff notices are continuing to be issued. He also wants the deal approved quickly.

He referred to a Greek legend about a sword held in place by one hair of a horse's tail in describing the imminent danger some families could face.

"There's a sword of Damocles hanging over a lot of families' heads right now, and I think it would be in everybody's best interest to get this resolved one way or the other," Malloy told reporters after an event in Somers. "It's bad enough to lose your job, but to have it play out over an elongated period of time is that much more difficult."

Malloy presented to the General Assembly more than a week ago a plan that covered the $1.6 billion in labor savings needed to balance the two-year, $40.1 billion state budget. That plan called for more than 6,500 job eliminations, including thousands of layoffs. As of last week, 1,851 notices had gone out. Deep cuts in programs also are anticipated, such as closed Department of Motor Vehicles branches, the closure of two ferries across the Connecticut River and the closure of courthouses.

While he's hoping that union members quickly ratify the tentative agreement, Senate President Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn, said lawmakers are not ruling out holding a public hearing on Malloy's spending reductions, on or about Aug. 15.

"Now if this vote gets moving quickly and we have some results and we know that the concessions agreement is going to be ratified then we don't want to waste the taxpayers' money and everyone's time with hearings and discussions that are unnecessary," he said.

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Associated Press writer Stephen Dockery in Somers contributed to this report.

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Follow Associated Press writer Susan Haigh on Twitter at --http://twitter.com/SusanHaighAP


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