AUGUSTA — Contract negotiations between Gov. Paul LePage’s administration and Maine’s largest public-sector union broke down late Thursday night, say representatives on both sides, who have differing accounts of exactly what happened.

Chris Quint, executive director of the Maine State Employees Association, said the union made an offer that the administration’s team rejected.

Union officials asked for a few minutes to discuss things, Quint said, which the state’s negotiators allowed.

“(Then) we called them to come down, they refused to come down, they hung up the phone and they walked out the door,” he said. “They did not tell us they were leaving and refused and failed to negotiate with us when we were ready to negotiate and ready to settle a contract.”

LePage’s office issued a release Friday that denied the union’s characterization of what happened.

“Contrary to reports, the state’s team did not walk away Thursday evening, negotiations were concluded for the day,” said the press release.

The administration is ready to “return to discussions immediately,” it said.

“It is unclear at this point when talks are likely to resume, as the union chief spokesperson, Rod Hiltz, was unable or unwilling to provide future negotiating dates when the session ended,” said the release. “He also indicated he is unavailable, for an undisclosed reason, over the next three weeks.”

The administration did strike deals late Thursday night with two other public sector unions, according to the release.

About 1,000 employees in the Department of Corrections and the Department of Health and Human Services who are represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees ratified a one-year extension of their contract.

And the state police union tentatively agreed to a two-year contract extension, pending a vote by the full membership that’s scheduled for next week.

Though the Maine State Employees Association’s contract expired at midnight Thursday, the current contract terms are automatically extended for as long as 90 days, allowing negotiations to continue without interrupting state operations.

Rebekah Metzler — 620-7016

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