Arbitrator calls for state police raises, unrestricted cruiser use


HARTFORD — Connecticut state police would get pay raises of 2 percent this fiscal year and 3 percent next year while retaining nearly unrestricted off-duty use of their cruisers, under an arbitration decision that now goes to the state legislature.

An independent arbitrator settled contract negotiation disputes between the Connecticut State Police Union and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration and recommended the raises and other measures that would be included in a new three-year contract. The arbitrator’s decision was issued last week and obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press through a public records request.

The new contract would cover 1,072 troopers, sergeants and master sergeants, who have been working without a contract since July of last year because negotiations with administration officials reached an impasse.

The agreement would run from July 1, 2012, to June 30, 2015, and include no pay raises for the first year, which ended June 30 of this year. Union members would get 2 percent pay raises and annual “step” increases this fiscal year, but they wouldn’t be effective until Oct. 1. Three percent pay raises would be awarded for 2014-2015, the same increase other state employees will get that year.

Union members also would pay higher pension and health care costs, under a previous agreement with the administration.

“The union respects the arbitrator’s decision and the collective bargaining process and we believe that the award was fair and reasonable for both parties,” Sgt. Andrew Matthews, the union president, said in a statement Tuesday.

Matthews said later in a phone interview, “We worked really hard on behalf of our members and families.”

The proposal of the arbitrator, Joel M. Weisblatt of Skillman, N.J., will go before the Legislature when it reconvenes in February. If lawmakers take no action on it within 30 days, the proposal will go into effect.

Malloy’s chief of staff, Mark Ojakian, said in a statement Tuesday that he first wanted to thank thousands of state employees who provided wage and benefit concessions during the state budget crisis in 2011. All the state employee unions approved pension and health care concessions that year, and all unions except state police and state prison supervisors approved the wage proposals.

After the state police union rejected the wage concessions, 56 union members were laid off but rehired six weeks later.

“On the recent state police award, we respect the collective bargaining process and will be submitting the award to the General Assembly as required by law,” Ojakian said.

As part of the 2011 concessions, nearly all state employee unions agreed to a five-year wage plan that included pay freezes in 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 and 3 percent pay raises in each of the following three years. The administration had wanted state troopers to agree to wage freezes in 2012-13 and the current fiscal year.

The last raise the state police union received was a 2.5 percent increase in 2011-2012. Troopers in their first few years on the job generally make between $50,000 and $60,000 a year, while those in the top pay level earn about $83,000 annually.

Matthews also said the union won a big victory in keeping the unrestricted off-duty use of cruisers. The administration wanted to limit off-duty cruiser use by not allowing civilian passengers during non-job-related trips.

Matthews said off-duty use of cruisers is a significant public benefit because state police provide many services while off-duty including pulling over hazardous motorists, helping stranded drivers and backing up on-duty troopers during calls.

Weisblatt, the arbitrator, said in his decision that it was an established public benefit that off-duty troopers can respond in their cruisers to emergencies as they arise. He mentioned the Newtown school shootings last December that killed 20 first-graders and six educators.

“Off-duty trooper response to the tragic situation at Newtown was swift and helpful,” Weisblatt said. “It is clearly a ‘win-win’ working condition.”



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