Unions, Malloy negotiate comp time for Sandy Hook responders

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy disclosed Wednesday that his administration concluded negotiations last week for a one-time Sandy Hook benefit that will provide 40 hours of compensatory time to an undisclosed number of state workers who were “directly and significantly involved” in the response to school massacre of 26 women and children on Dec. 14, 2012.

The compensatory time, which will not be available until the General Assembly can review the agreement, is intended to offset the sick and vacation time taken by state employees to deal with psychological trauma while avoiding a permanent expansion of workers’ compensation benefits.

“The men and women directly involved in the response to this horrible tragedy in many cases needed time to recover from the severe nature of what they experienced through simply doing their jobs,” Malloy said.  “This is only one step, but it is important that we recognize the professionals who are there during unimaginable moments of difficulty, and that we continue to support them.”

The administration’s Office of Labor Relations negotiated the benefit with six state employee unions:American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Union; the Administrative and Residual Union; District 1199; the Connecticut State Police Union; the Connecticut State Employees Association; and the Connecticut Police and Fire Union.

Linda J. Yelmeni, the director of labor relations, posted a summary of the new benefit Nov. 27. State agencies are required to submit a list of covered employees by Dec. 31, 2013. Unions can appeal any employee excluded from the list, but any grievances cannot be submitted to independent arbitration.

Once submitted to the General Assembly, which next convenes in February, it would take effect within 30 days unless rejected by legislators.

The state limited workers’ compensation benefits for mental trauma in 1993 during the administration of Gov. John G. Rowland, and organized labor has pressed to restore some of those benefits since Sandy Hook. Instead, the legislature unanimously voted in March to create a special fund for first-responders, teachers and others who suffered psychological trauma at Sandy Hook.

Backed by private donations, the fund will supplement a workers’ compensation system that does not reimburse for lost wages and other expenses caused solely by mental trauma. 

The response to the shooting included close to 300 people working as part of a disaster behavioral health response team, which provided mental health crisis services for three months and has remained available to the town and families of the victims. Members included employees of the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, Department of Children and Families and private nonprofit mental health agencies that contract with the state.

​The Malloy administration’s announcement of the agreement included statements from all six unions. Based on a statement from the Connecticut State Employees Association, which represents state supervisors, those covered appear include the state police spokesman who was the face of law enforcement after the tragedy.

“Our members did not ask or expect this benefit, it is part of their job,” said Bob Rinker, the executive director of CSEA. “Special recognition should go out to Lt. J. Paul Vance who managed the press conferences to keep our citizens and the world properly informed of the events, and to our State Police supervisors and our Police Inspectors that conducted this criminal investigation into this horrific event.”

The deal also was praised by the Connecticut State Police Union, which has had a difficult relationship with the Malloy administration.

“State troopers, both on and off-duty, ran towards the face of evil and witnessed one of the most violent events our country has ever seen. As a result, some continue to suffer from the effects,” said Andrew Matthews, president of the State Police Union. “We are grateful for Gov. Malloy’s leadership, compassion and understanding by approving the agreement and for offering compensatory time, which is necessary for these troopers to continue in the healing process.”

 

 

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