Recall of all 56 laid off troopers eases acrimony

The recall today of 56 state troopers laid off during the summer’s bitter fight over wage-and-benefit concessions suddenly has their union and the administration of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy singing the same happy tune.

“Today is a very happy day,” Reuben F. Bradford, the commissioner the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, said as he announced the recalls at a hastily called press conference.

“It’s a great day,” said Sgt. Andrew Matthews, the president of the Connecticut State Police Union. “We’re thankful to the governor and to his administration for their efforts.”

In August, Malloy ordered the layoffs of 56 new troopers and two dozen correction supervisors, members of the only two bargaining units to reject elements of a concession deal that offered four years of job security.

All but eight of the correction supervisors will regain their old jobs by Oct. 7 as others retire, said Brian A. Garnett, a spokesman for the Department of Correction.

Malloy had a strong political need to deliver on his layoff threat in August, even though it was clear that the layoffs likely would be brief, given the police retirements expected by Oct. 1.

Bradford said today that the retirements of 40 senior officers at higher pay rates will give him the budget savings to recall all 56 first-year troopers, who earn significantly less.

The state had a significant investment in training the new troopers, and it was in the state’s fiscal interest to recall them before they accepted jobs with other police departments.

The state police union filed a lawsuit contesting the layoffs, arguing that Malloy was in no position to cut troopers because the department was shy of a staffing level set in state law.

Today, Mathews sounded a conciliatory note, calling the recalls “a positive step” toward repairing relations with the administration. He had no comment on whether the lawsuit would be pursued, saying they will consult with counsel.

“It’s always been about public safety and trooper safety for us,” Matthews said.

Even with the recalls, the state police still will be well below the mandated staffing level of 1,248. The layoffs dropped the size of the force from 1,127 to 1,071 troopers.

With the recalls of 56 troopers and retirements of 40, there is a net gain of only 16, giving the state police a workforce of 1,087.

Bradford said he was conducted a study to determining the optimal strength of the police force.

To cope with the layoffs, Bradford took 56 troopers from administrative and specialty assignments and reassigned them to the road. Not all of them will get their old positions back, he said.

“It’s not a decision I wanted to make,” Malloy said of the layoffs in August. “As everybody in this state knows, I’ve done everything in my power to avoid layoffs.”

Malloy was referring to two tentative deals reached earlier this year with state employee unions, with each deal designed to save $1.6 billion over two years through concessions.

The first tentative agreement was rejected, but the second was adopted for the most part in August as all but the Connecticut State Police Union and CSEA/SEIU Local 2001 — which represents about 600 prison guard supervisors — rejected a key component: a two-year wage freeze.

The state police union ratified the pension-and-health portion of the concession deal approved by the other 14 unions, but the no-layoff guarantee was conditioned on acceptance of the wage freeze.

Both the troopers and correction supervisors are receiving 2.5 percent raises this fiscal year, but through their votes they also waived their right to four years of protection against layoffs. It will not be known for several years if the state police came out ahead.

They received raises in the short-term, but the other bargaining units are guaranteed nine-percent raises spread over the last three years of the five-year deal. The state police may be hard-pressed to obtain a similar deal from the Malloy Administration.

The Correction Department has had nothing equivalent to Bradford’s sweeping recall announcement.

Garnett, a spokesman for the department, said seven laid off supervisors have been given back their old jobs: one captain and three counselor supervisors were recalled from layoffs, and three captains who took voluntary demotions to lieutenant have been restored to the rank of captain.

On October 7, one counselor supervisor and eight lieutenants will be brought back; the department is awaiting authorization to make offers to eight remaining lieutenants, Garnett said.