Hartford unions agree to work with Bronin administration on budget crisis

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HARTFORD -- At the Legislative Office Building on Thursday afternoon, members Hartford's labor unions and City Council leaders announced they had come to an agreement to work with Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin on tackling the city's fiscal crisis.

"We did not create the problems afflicting our great city but we fully intend to be a part of the solution that moves the ball forward," said Shelly Davis of the Greater Hartford AFL-CIO.

City unions had been at odds with Bronin for a while ever since announcing the city was facing a fiscal year 2017 deficit of $48.5 million. Bronin announced drastic measures including severe budget cuts and layoffs.

The mayor was pleased with the development in relations, and released the following statement:

I welcome today’s press conference as a good faith step, and I look forward to continuing to work hard with our union partners to close our massive budget gap in a responsible, honest way. 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. 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.

The mayor was also pursuing legislation to form a state financial sustainability commission to look over Hartford's books and have special authority to bargain with unions. Last Monday, the Hartford city council sent a message in an 8-1 vote saying it did not want such a committee formed. Support for the measure has dwindled and the commission is not expected to be formed as it has been presented.

Meanwhile, union members and leaders say they're hoping to find a middle ground with Bronin in the form of healthcare, pension and other modest concessions.

"I believe that speaking for all of my council colleagues, we will bear everything in mind and when we look at the budget we will make difficult decisions and put Hartford back on the path for success," said T.J. Clarke, president of the Hartford Common Council.

Bronin will present his budget to the council on April 18 with a public hearing scheduled for April 27 at 6 p.m. at Bulkeley High School.