After a two-hour hearing with university and union officials Tuesday afternoon, legislators on the state appropriations committee sent mixed signals on the University of Connecticut's proposed five-year contract with its largest union, the UConn Professional Employees Association (UCPEA).
Under the contract's provisions, non-teaching professionals at the university would shift from 35 hours per week to 40 hours and see an increase in pay between 3 percent and 4.5 percent over the next five years.
The contract, which will add $24.4 million to the university's projected costs over the next five years, is the product of extensive negotiations between university officials and UCPEA that began last October, according to UConn CFO Scott Jordan. UCPEA is the only union at the university not in arbitration for contracts set to expire in June.
In separate votes cast Tuesday night, members of the Senate on the appropriations committee failed to approve the contract on a 6-6 tie vote, while members of the House of Representatives approved the contract 24-19.
This means the contract will advance to the House floor with an affirmative recommendation from the committee, but will not have the same status on the Senate floor. It has been more than two decades since the last time the General Assembly has rejected a union contract that reached the floor for a vote.
Legislators have 30 days to consider the contract, which was submitted to General Assembly on Feb. 10. If the state legislature does not vote to reject the contract within the next two weeks, then it will automatically receive approval.
Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, said the concessions made "in good faith" by UCPEA, which employs 1,900 professional workers at the university, deserved to be rewarded by not forcing additional cuts through a rejection of the contract.
According to a CTMirror article published on Tuesday, “Republicans on the committee and some Democrats questioned whether Connecticut could afford this deal given the looming red ink it faces. ... The legislature’s nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis is projecting a deficit topping $500 million in 2016-17, and shortfalls in excess of $1.7 billion and $1.8 billion in 2017-18 and 2018-19, respectively. The latter two deficits both represent about 9 percent of annual operating expenses."
According to Section 31(7) of the Joint Rules of the Senate and House of Representatives, “If the General Assembly does not vote to approve or reject such award…the award…shall be deemed approved.” This mean that the contract would automatically go into place unless it was rejected by the GA.
The vote came two weeks after Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy suggested budget cuts of $569.5 million, which would reduce the workforce by “several thousand employees.”
“The state currently provides about 30 percent of UConn's total funding. In the 2010-11 school year, the state provided the University of Connecticut $329.1 million compared to $385.1 million this fiscal year – a 17 percent funding increase over six years. During that time UConn's budget increased by $232 million,” according to the CTMirror article published Monday.
Emma Krueger is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.