The End Is Near For State Trooper Contract Negotiations
State troopers have been working under an expired contract for more than a year, but that likely will change later this summer when an arbitration process draws to a close.
State troopers’ labor contract with the state expired in July 2012. A few months later, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration and the Connecticut State Police Union reached an impasse in the process of negotiating a new deal. The case was sent to an arbitrator to be resolved.
State Labor Relations Director Linda Yelmini said that reply briefs are due from both sides by Friday. Then it will be up to the arbitrator to make an award. After a decision is made, the legislature will have a 30-day opportunity from the next time they gavel into session to approve or reject the new contract. If lawmakers take no action, the contracts will go into effect, she said.
Yelmini said the language of the expired contract remains in effect until a new one is established.
Connecticut State Police Union President Andrew Matthews said the expired contract does not cover any wage increases for troopers.
Troopers last received a raise in the summer of 2011 when they were one of two state employee bargaining units to reject a two-year wage freeze under a concession agreement with the Malloy administration.
Since then, the administration and the union have clashed over staffing levels and efforts to consolidate dispatch centers as well as initiatives to “civilianize” certain positions within the agency. Last year, the union voted no confidence in Public Safety Commissioner Reuben Bradford and state police Col. Danny Stebbins over the issues.
The union also asked a court to force the administration to adhere to a previously-ignored statute requiring a minimum number of state troopers. The case prompted Malloy to propose and later sign a bill which removed the requirement from statute.
On Wednesday, Matthews said that he was “cautiously optimistic” about the process, but declined to discuss the contract sticking points citing the ongoing arbitration process.
“What the union leadership does not want to do is impact that process,” he said.
In May, Matthews testified before a legislative panel investigating the agency’s staffing levels and told lawmakers that he was concerned the state was trying to remove off-duty use of patrol cars from troopers’ contracts.
Matthews said state police often respond to emergencies while they are off-duty because they hear calls broadcast over their vehicle’s radios. He told lawmakers he had a similar experience when he stopped to help a man having a medical emergency while he was using his patrol car off-duty.
“I would not have been doing CPR on the side of the road as my wife watched if I was in my personal vehicle going to the airport,” he said.