The leadership of a union representing a third of the state’s employees reversed course on Friday and said it would allow its members to vote on a cost-savings plan negotiated with the governor.
Rhode Island Gov. Donald Carcieri said last week that he would begin layoffs after negotiations broke down with Council 94 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees.
Earlier in the week, Council 94 president J. Michael Downey had reached an agreement with Carcieri that was contingent on the deal’s ratification by the union’s members. But the leadership of the union balked at a provision that would have allowed the governor to reorganize state workers and decided not to allow members to vote on the compromise.
“The governor was adamant that he was not going to move on the reorganization language,” said Council 94 spokesman Jim Cenerini. “We believe our members should have the right to vote on the proposal.”
Earlier in the week the union’s leadership said that while members were willing to make sacrifices in exchange for job security, “the threat of job reassignment does not give our members job security.”
Council 94 represents about 4,000 of the state’s 13,600 workers. Voting will begin next week and the union has asked for a two-day extension beyond an Oct. 2 deadline to complete the vote.
Carcieri said in a statement that he was pleased that Council 94 members would be allowed to vote on the agreement.
The deal was a compromise to prevent furloughs or layoffs that Carcieri said would save the state $21.6 million. The two sides began negotiations after courts stayed the furloughs.
Instead of 12 unpaid nonwork days over the next 10 months, the new agreement called for union workers to take 12 unpaid work days through fiscal 2011; to delay by six months 3% raises that were due to take effect in July 2010; and to allow the governor a free hand in transferring workers to different divisions. In return, union workers would not face layoffs and could earn up to 15 paid vacation days on the unpaid work days.
“In lieu of layoffs, the governor needs some flexibility to be able to manage personnel,” said Carcieri spokeswoman Amy Kempe. “What this agreement did is allow the governor to transfer individuals due to reorganization or elimination of services or programs.”
News reports said that deal would save the state $36 million.
“For those unions that do not agree to participate, we will proceed with the layoff process,” Kempe said.