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Demanding Action to Reverse Critical Short-Staffing Conditions

The State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC), which includes seven AFT Connecticut-affiliated locals, released on Friday a statement with comments expressing concern from several union members serving on the frontline. Nurses, a road maintainer and a correction officer each shared their fears of unsafe conditions being compounded by threat to displace workers deemed “non-compliant” with the vaccine mandate. 
 
Click here for the full SEBAC press release.
“Chronic understaffing was already putting patient and caregiver safety at risk long before the pandemic hit,” said Jill Alsgaard, RN (in group photo, above), an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) nurse at UConn Health’s John Dempsey Hospital. “Coupled with the expectation of a ‘retirement cliff’ next year, an even larger exodus is coming. The strain of the past 18 months has only made a bad situation worse and, sadly, provided administration an excuse for inaction,” added Alsgaard, a University Health Professionals (UHP) union member.
 
Alsgaard’s comments refer to a recent legislative research report warning of the impacts on key services due to unprecedented retirements expected by next summer. The state workforce is currently the smallest it has been in over 60 years as a result of previous administrations turning a bipartisan blind eye to staffing shortfalls for decades.
 
Click here for the Office of Legislative Research (OLR)’s report on the state agency staffing crisis.
 
The harmful effects of short-staffing on public safety and health professionals go far beyond the workforce; they also threaten vulnerable residents and patients in need. 
 
“I’m about to take on another shift after working 12 hours overnight,” Alsgaard said Friday. “I’m willing to do it for my patients and my colleagues, but it’s hardly a sustainable solution.”
 
Governor Lamont the day before announced a scheme to displace state employees unable to meet vaccination compliance requirements under Executive Order 13G by tonight at 11:59PM. The move followed weeks of negotiations with administration officials begun at the request of SEBAC leaders to address numerous impacts the new policy would have on members’ working conditions.
 
Click here for SEBAC’s latest COVID-19 negotiations internal update.
 
Coalition leaders last month in an internal update affirmed members’ collective commitment to vaccines as “an important tool to reduce risk from this deadly virus and protect our communities.” They also reported their request for a flexible compliance period to “allow the parties to cooperatively assess the levels of understaffing and displacement caused by the mandate.”
 
The Lamont Administration extended the deadline for a week, but failed to demonstrate the cooperation needed to “make the best informed decisions about how to cope.”
 
Click here for the SEBAC September 22 internal update. 
 
The governor — and all elected leaders — should be focused right now on mitigating the impacts of the pandemic on all residents and businesses. The suffering of the last year creates a historic opportunity to do better than manufacturing a public service delivery crisis that Connecticut can easily avoid and can ill afford.
 
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