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Unions Should Concede Shorter Hours


July 12, 2011

Here's a new concept, a state employee concession plan that everybody can understand: guarantee jobs for a shorter workweek.

In reading the now failed agreement between the Malloy administration and the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition, I was amazed at how complicated they made it for members, including me, to read. Here are a few quotes from the agreement:

"For individuals retiring on or after Sept. 2, 2011, the early retirement reduction factor shall be changed to six percent for each year before the individual would be eligible to take unreduced Normal Retirement.

"The parties will meet and discuss a modification to the Breakpoint that will be effective for service earned on and after July 1, 2013. The revised breakpoint will be designed so that the pension amount for individuals earning under the current breakpoint will be increased.

"The parties have agreed that the current practice for five (5) year reviews will continue and OJE adjustments may be resolved for jobs which the Union believes have substantial changes in duties through interim bargaining and, if necessary, arbitration (rather than through the Master Evaluation Committee)."

No kidding. Six percent of what for who? I thought a breakpoint was something to do with tennis. Ooooh! I wonder who is on the Master Evaluation Committee and if they have a secret handshake.

Most of us state employees were provided with virtually no reliable information by our unions before rumors spread of compulsory colonoscopies, retirement penalties and having our health plan changed into a mongrelized version of a nationalized health care plan from a third world country.

The health care plan sounded like another step toward Big Brother with menacing language including, "Participants who choose not to adhere to the requirements of the Health Enhancement program will be given appropriate notice and opportunity to improve." Then what? Get fired? Be confined to a fat farm until we lose enough weight to rejoin society?

Sure there was talk of job security, but with lots of caveats in the same sort of unfathomable wording as the examples above.

It simply came down to the membership not really trusting the union leadership. This was self inflicted because union heads did not have meetings prior to negotiations to see what members were willing to offer up, or what we could live with. A lot of bright suggestions would have been made, but union leadership was sure it knew what was best for us. Oops!

Without the need for a whole lot of complicated language here's how we can come to an agreement in short order. We, the unionized employees, get real job security. The administration gets what was already negotiated in the agreement except with no change in health benefits and only one adjustment to pensions and that based on a two-year pay freeze everyone would endure. To achieve the needed saving unions would agree to immediately implement a 35-hour workweek for state employees.

So, I estimate the two-year wage freeze (retroactive to July 1) would generate $138.8 million in this fiscal year and $309.5 million in the next. Pension savings in the two years would be $69.3 million and $71 million. Further savings of $90 million from technology initiatives and $180 million from the unions' budget savings initiative would be realized. Finally, putting all state workers who are not already on a 35-hour workweek on the reduced schedule would save $482.5 million in each of the next two years. This all adds up to $1.8 billion in savings over two years.

To my fellow state employees I ask, "What do you say?" Give up some money, get a little more time with the family, no worries about heath care and pension changes, share the sacrifice and keep our fellow union members working. I'd vote for this straightforward, easily understood plan. I hope you will too. OooRah!

Jim O'Neill is a 24-year state worker and is a legislative liaison for the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities. He is a member of the Administrative and Residual Employees Union.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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