Unions, city council rally against controversial bill - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Unions, city council rally against controversial bill

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Mayor Luke Bronin discusses plans to quell Hartford's budget crisis. (WFSB file photo) Mayor Luke Bronin discusses plans to quell Hartford's budget crisis. (WFSB file photo)

Members of Hartford's police and para-professional unions joined local legislators and members of the City Council in a news briefing on Thursday morning to voice their opposition to a controversial bill.

The groups are seeking to find a different alternative to Senate Bill 464, which is a proposal to create a "Hartford Sustainability Commission" that will oversee municipal and education budgets. 

Both the municipal and school budgets have projected shortfalls and the proposal, introduced by Mayor Luke Bronin, was seen as a way to address the $48 million problem.

Critics have said the bill will take away the bargaining power of the unions. 

The president of Hartford firefighter's union said there's no need for the state to take over, and Hartford can fix it's own mess.

"We are committed to standing together to put Hartford back on a sustainable path," said J. Clarke, president of Hartford City Council.

City councilors are joining forces with Hartford's delegation to convince Mayor Bronin to negotiate with the city's labor unions.

"We can't go to a press conference without numbers. It can't be enough to go to the table; we need to have something to start from," said State Rep. Matt Ritter.

Bronin said he welcomed the news conference as a good faith step.

"We have tough decisions and tough negotiations ahead of us, but I take the union leadership at their word that they are committed to making real, substantial concessions to get Hartford on a path to recovery," he said. "I’ve been working closely with the Hartford legislative delegation throughout this process, and I appreciate the role that members of the delegation have played in making sure that everyone understands the urgency and gravity of our fiscal challenge.”

Thursday marked the deadline for the state's finance committee to consider the bill, which is in the hands of the state legislature.

This comes on the heels of rallies and protests regarding the future of their jobs.

Nearly 20 percent of the city's fire department said it is prepared to retire if cuts are made.

The unions won't say what they're prepared to give back, but said in previous contracts they agreed to pension changes and helped bring about better discounts for health coverage.

This time they're worried about layoffs.

"Very serious, never been more serious about anything in our lives before. We are willing to work with the city and always have," said Richard Holton, president of the Hartford police union.

The schools face a $15 million to $20 million deficit which the Board of Education chairman admitted would have an impact on the quality of education that children receive.

"It's hard to see how it won't [be effected by] the cuts," said Richard Wareing, Board of Education chairman. "I mean we're talking probably 9 percent of our workforce."

As negotiations continue behind closed doors, unions are ready to speak in front of some very public ones to address the financial crisis in efforts to find another way instead of a state panel.

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