Nurses picketing at Backus Hospital on Tuesday, Oct. 13 (CT Examiner/Otte)

Labor Coalition Calls Lamont Budget ‘Profoundly Troubling’

The budget announced by Gov. Ned Lamont on Wednesday proposes a wage freeze for state employees in 2022 and 2023, that would save the government an estimated $141.75 million — a concession the state employee unions say they are not willing to make.

Lamont’s plan would save $44 million from the general fund in 2022 and $92.4 million in 2023 by not allowing wage increases for union employees currently in bargaining. It would also save $4 million in 2022 and $8.5 million in 2023 for the state’s transportation fund.

Assuming no wage increases for non-union employees in 2023, Lamont included a potential savings of $5.2 million from the general fund and $227,376 from the transportation fund.

But whatever the budget proposal, Lamont can’t unilaterally order that unionized state employees not get raises, and union leaders say they will not concede those raises in their bargaining with the state.

Leaders of the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition said in a statement to CT Examiner, now posted to its website, that they intend to bargain with state officials for fair wages, “powerful and effective” public services, and contracts that benefit all of Connecticut.

“The governor’s budget assumes still more sacrifices from Connecticut’s public employees and working families, many of whom have risked, and continue to risk, their lives every day to provide the much needed services that our most vulnerable populations have relied on before and during the pandemic,” the statement read.

The labor coalition said the proposed wage freeze is one of many assumptions Lamont makes that the union finds “profoundly troubling,” and shows that his administration is out of touch with the needs of working families.  The Governor’s budget, labor advocates say, assumes that Connecticut can address the issues facing all working families without “profound reinvestment” in public services.

Union leaders called for additional taxes on “multi-millionaires and billionaires” rather than cuts to state employee pay — a concept proposed by some lawmakers, but absent from the budget proposal touted by Lamont as having no “broad-based” tax increases.

In a call with reporters on Wednesday, Sal Luciano, president of the Connecticut AFL-CIO, called Lamont’s proposal to freeze pay raises for some state employees, “problematic.”

“I know for instance [corrections officers], many of whom worked two shifts, then went to a motel so they wouldn’t impact their families, and with people quarantining – they have worked tremendously hard,” Luciano said.

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