Senate GOP urges Malloy to cancel October longevity bonuses for non-union employees

Minority Republicans in the state Senate urged Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Thursday to rescind planned October longevity payments and to work to stop the practice going forward.

“We urge you to act to restore the trust that is critical to your effectiveness as a leader of our state,” Senate Republicans, who hold 14 out of 36 seats in that chamber, wrote to the Democratic governor. “Seize the initiative and revoke the October longevity payments intended for non-union state employees.”

Malloy’s senior advisor, Roy Occhiogrosso, responded that “the governor’s position is clear: he doesn’t think anyone should be getting longevity payments. But in order to accomplish that, legislative action is necessary, and it’s not even clear that that will be enough because there are legal questions that also need to be answered.”

The longevity pay system, first created by statute in 1967 and subsequently guaranteed in most union contracts since then, rewards most workers with biannual bonuses after they have achieved 10 years of service. The statutes also call for higher bonuses after workers hit their 15-, 20 and 25-year anniversaries, after which longevity pay is capped.

Under concession deal reached last summer between Malloy and the state employee unions, about 39,800 unionized employees will forfeit their entire longevity payment this October. Another 5,200 unionized employees, primarily involving higher education faculty and Judicial branch professionals, will forfeit 25 percent of their October payment.

Also under that deal, all unionized employees hired after July 1, 2011 are ineligible from ever receiving longevity pay.

For non-union workers, the administration opted not to cancel October payments.

Instead it has capped payments for non-union workers. That means those payments never will increase in future years, regardless of how much experience non-union staff accumulate. It also means that those non-union workers who lacked the minimum experience level of 10 years when longevity payments last were issued in April are permanently ineligible from receiving them.

According to the state comptroller’s office, 3,599 non-union employees received longevity bonuses in April. The number is expected to decline somewhat in October due to retirements and resignations over the past six months.

Administration officials also have raised concerns that shy of a legislative repeal of the longevity statute, canceling longevity payments for non-union workers might be challenged in court as an illegal taking of salary.

In a 2007 decision, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that final, pro-rated longevity payments earned by two retiring assistant attorneys general had to be included in their pension calculations.

“The governor would like to work with legislators to see what can be done to end this practice once and for all — for everyone,” Occhiogrosso added. “As to the request made by the Senate Republicans, they know full well that the governor can’t do what they’re asking him to do. It’s not legal.”

Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, sent Malloy a letter last Friday arguing that the statutory and legal precedent gives the governor the authority to reform the longevity pay system, including canceling payments.