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Lamont Dishes Out Over $200 Million in Raises

On March 29, Gov. Ned Lamont and the State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC) — a group that is comprised of 15 state government unions — agreed to terms on a wage re-opener that will see most state employees receiving more than $200 million in raises, step increases, lump sum payments and fringe benefits in accordance with the terms laid out in their 2022 contract. 

Costing more than $1.8 billion in its first four years, the 2022 five-year SEBAC agreement left out wage hikes for its final year. However, the contract obligated the state to revisit salary negotiations after January 2024 through a mechanism known as a “reopener,” which prompted talks but not necessarily the provision of pay raises.  

During the negotiations, the union did not make any concessions, specifically leaving state healthcare coverage and pension contributions untouched. 

In a March 6th statement on the coalition’s website, Drew Phelan of SEBAC underscored that since 2022 union members saw wage increases “nearing 15%” while highlighting the fact that did not “include the wage and step re-opener in the fourth year” of the contract. 

Our state’s working families and our economy depend upon a strong, stable, and effective public service workforce,” said Phelan, adding that this is “only possible with fair pay, decent benefits, and respect for the voices of those on the front lines.” 

Phelan argued that “Reaching [an] agreement on this reopener is just one small step in an ongoing effort by our coalition to secure real solutions for our members and the communities we serve.” 

Despite the wage increases, Phelan asserts that there remains “much more to be done” to address the ongoing “service crisis” caused by recruitment and retention difficulties at various workplaces.  

A 155-page document submitted to the Senate Clerk by the Office of Policy and Management’s Office of Labor Relations on April 2nd, indicates that the state’s colleges (including UConn and UConn Health) are slated to receive more than $60 million — or 30% of the contract’s estimated cost.  

However, unlike other bargaining units which disclosed their annual fringe benefit costs (including pensions, retiree healthcare, social security and Medicare), the colleges and universities did not report these figures. This omission suggests that the actual cost will significantly exceed $60 million. 

Meanwhile, in a Jan. 26th tweet, SEBAC criticized Gov. Lamont for insufficient funding towards higher education, accusing him of “causing severe and disastrous cuts across public higher education along with tuition increases that are forcing Black, Brown and White working-class students to pay more tuition for less services.” 

It remains uncertain whether this tweet was posted before SEBAC agreed to accept more than $60 million, a move that will add to the financial burden on the same students SEBAC claims to advocate for. 

A public hearing is scheduled in the Appropriations Committee on Friday (April 12th) and SEBAC members have wasted no time submitting testimony to justify more raises. 

Individuals who provided written testimony revived the familiar argument that they are entitled to raises due to the “concessions” made in a five-year agreement SEBAC reached with Gov. Dannel Malloy in 2017.  

At a time of considerable budgetary strain for the state, this agreement was expected to generate $24 billion in savings over two decades. The savings were anticipated to come from measures such as wage freezes, adjustments to pension calculations, and changes to employee healthcare benefits.  

In exchange for foregoing raises — to which they were not contractually entitled — state employees were granted four-year layoff protections, cash bonuses, and assured step and wage increases in the contract’s final two years. It’s important to note that not receiving a raise does not equate to cost savings, especially when such raises were not guaranteed initially. 

This same argument was leveraged to secure the 2022 deal and pandemic pay that far exceeded what the private sector received. 

In written testimony, Dr. Laura Hayes, Professor and President of the UConn Health Center – American Association of University Professors (UCHC-AAUP), stated that SEBAC members have “made sacrifices in all of our core benefits, including pension and healthcare.”  

Dr. Hayes remarked, “We made these sacrifices because the state was suffering severe financial challenges, and we wanted to protect the vital public services we provide and to prevent the layoff of junior employees who still had many years of public services ahead of them.” 

Following the public hearing, it is anticipated that the committee will approve the deal, forwarding it to the House and Senate for ratification. Given that it is an election year, the agreement is expected to pass. 





Meghan Portfolio

Meghan worked in the private sector for two decades in various roles in management, sales, and project management. She was an intern on a presidential campaign and field organizer in a governor’s race. Meghan, a Connecticut native, joined Yankee Institute in 2019 as the Development Manager. After two years with Yankee, she has moved into the policy space as Yankee’s Manager of Research and Analysis. When she isn’t keeping up with local and current news, she enjoys running–having completed seven marathons–and reading her way through Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels.

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