Bargaining units representing more than 6,400 unionized state employees chastised Gov. Dannel P. Malloy this afternoon for allowing non-union managers and executives to receive longevity bonuses in October under a new capping system while unionized staff will forfeit some or all of theirs.

CSEA-SEIU Local 2001, called for Malloy to apply the same standard to all workers, arguing that to do otherwise would “violate the spirit” of the $1.6 billion concession deal ratified in mid-August.

But the governor’s senior policy advisor responded that the unions are wrong in their assertion and the longevity pay issue has been “mischaracterized.”

“‘Shared sacrifice’ should mean that state managers are treated the same as the unionized workforce,” Bob Rinker, Executive Director of CSEA-SEIU Local 2001, formerly the Connecticut State Employees Association, wrote in a statement. “The members of our unions just agreed to concessions believing that that the budget would not be balanced on their backs alone. The issue is one of fundamental fairness, and the managers’ longevity bonuses should reflect the same sacrifice as the front-line workers’ reduced payments.”

“I guess fiscal responsibility is a selective concept,” said Paul Lavallee, president of Local 2663 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. “Managers should manage well, instead of managing to do well while vital services are sacrificed.”

The union release added that Rinker would call on Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to treat the October longevity payments for managers and appointed officials “in a manner consistent with the unionized workforce.”

Rinker’s union represents approximately 3,900 workers providing a wide range of professionals including bridge inspections, transportation engineers and planners, correction officer supervisors, police inspectors, judicial marshals and some institutional educators and education administrators.

Lavallee, whose local represents about 2,500 human and social service workers, added that his parent union, AFSCME Council 4, has demanded that the state immediately provide the union with the specific cost of the non-union longevity bonuses.

“We just appealed to the governor to rescind the layoffs of 37 (Department of Children and Family) social workers carrying full case loads,” he added. “The DCF spokesman said the layoffs were due to what he called fiscal responsibility.Yet now we hear that state bureaucrats are going to rake in millions while children and families are left stranded.”

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.

The Department of Administrative Services declined Thursday to release a preliminary list of staff slated to receive longevity payments next month. Department spokesman Jeffrey Beckham said it still was being adjusted to reflect resignations, retirements and layoffs over the past six months. But longevity pay is issued twice yearly, in April and October, and 3,599 non-union staff received such bonuses, worth about $7 million in the spring.

Though specific cost estimates haven’t been disclosed, the Malloy administration insists that a new longevity cap imposed on non-union employees will save more money over the next 30 years than the union concession regarding longevity pay.

The executive cap was ordered by Malloy on Jan. 21, and applied to about 50 top officials. It said the officials could not earn higher payments in future years, even if they had fewer than 25 years of service.

The order also stipulated that those who hadn’t received a longevity payment in October 2010–such as legislators who left that branch in January to join his administration–would not be eligible for bonuses in the future.

The deal means about 39,800 unionized employees will forfeit their entire longevity payment this year. Another 5,200 union members, primarily involving higher education faculty and Judicial branch professionals, will forfeit 25 percent of their October payment.

All unionized employees hired after July 1, 2011 are ineligible from ever receiving longevity pay.

Among non-union workers, all those who didn’t receive longevity pay last April are ineligible from participating in the future, regardless of whether they are new hires or were just shy of 10 years of experience.

The governor’s plan doesn’t call for any non-union workers to lose any longevity pay this October, but their payments would be capped and would not increase in future years.

The unions’ argument that the governor’s plan for non-union longevity pay violates the spirit of the concession deal; “is not true, and I think this issue has been mischaracterized in the last few days,” Roy Occhiogrosso, the governor’s senior policy adviser, said Friday.

Occhiogrosso added that Malloy “doesn’t think anyone should get a longevity payment–period.”

The administration tried to negotiate an end to all longevity payments in talks with the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition, but that proposal was rejected by labor. Occhiogrosso said the governor would revisit the matter with the legislature during the 2012 session.

“I think this issue has to be taken on,” Malloy said of the longevity controversy this morning, before the union statements had been released. “I would support it being taken on legislatively. I think there are some nuances which I think are hard to explain.”

Malloy said managers got larger longevity bonuses as an alternative to increasing the salary base. If those didn’t occur, some managers would be paid less than their employees.

“I want a comprehensive answer to this,” he said.

The governor said he was proud to negotiate a deal eliminating the bonuses for new employees.

“That’s an accomplishment,” he added. “We have some additional work to do.”

Keith has spent most of his 31 years as a reporter specializing in state government finances, analyzing such topics as income tax equity, waste in government and the complex funding systems behind Connecticut’s transportation and social services networks. He has been the state finances reporter at CT Mirror since it launched in 2010. Prior to joining CT Mirror Keith was State Capitol bureau chief for The Journal Inquirer of Manchester, a reporter for the Day of New London, and a former contributing writer to The New York Times. Keith is a graduate of and a former journalism instructor at the University of Connecticut.

Leave a comment