One last chance?

With apologies to Yogi Berra, sometimes it's not over even when it's seemingly over. At least that appears to be the case with the vote by state labor unions rejecting the concession deal and the resulting announcement of about 6,500 pending layoffs.

A framework is now taking shape that could yet resurrect the deal, allow a revote and avoid the layoffs. On balance that would be a good thing.

The first order of business is for the coalition of state unions to change its bylaws so that going forward a majority vote can approve concessions, replacing the super majority now required.

Admittedly, we were never crazy about this deal. It asked too little of state workers and promised too much. The state asked union members to accept a wage freeze for two years, but with the assurance of no layoffs for four and annual increases of 3 percent in years three through five.

There were minor adjustments to the state health insurance plan, including slightly higher co-pays, but it would remain superior to most private plans and the deal locked it in through 2022. The retirement age would edge up for newer employees, but not for a decade.

So modest were the concession demands that it made the union rejection all the more maddening.

In fact 57 percent of union members voted in favor, as did 11 of the 15 bargaining units, but the bylaws demanded near unanimous approval.

Yet as soft as the rejected deal was, it is better than the prospect of 6,500 people hitting the unemployment lines, diminishing state services and further damaging an already lackluster Connecticut economy.

So how can the deal be salvaged?

Union leaders want to "reconvene discussions." Yet further sweetening a deal that was too sweet to begin with is out of the question. But Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has offered a fig leaf that union leadership should grab to cover its embarrassing no vote. The administration is willing to "clarify the language of the agreement."

This would allow negotiators to adjust wording without altering the substance or the numbers - $1.6 billion in alleged savings. (Yes, we know in reality it's probably substantially less than that.) That could provide the unions a face-saving excuse for a revote. A majority of union members would approve.

That wouldn't make everyone happy, certainly. Many angry taxpayers would prefer to see the state labor force slashed. Any sympathy for workers eroded with the concession rejection.

But it's the better path, unless the union members prove too foolish and selfish to go down it.

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.


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