Sen. Eric Berthel, right, and Sen. Jeff Gordon talk during roll call on arbitration award. Berthel cast one of the three no votes. MARK PAZNIOKAS / CTMIRROR.ORG

The Senate voted 32-3 Wednesday for final approval of an arbitration award of $49.5 million for pandemic bonus pay to 34,514 unionized employees of state government, the National Guard and quasi-public state agencies.

The majority will receive awards of about $1,500, with $41.5 million to be paid from federal relief funds and the remainder in state dollars, according to an analysis by the Office of Fiscal Analysis.

The bonuses go to employees who worked in person during the first year of the pandemic.

“We are acknowledging the heroic efforts made by people who were in grave danger when they went to work and the early stages of the pandemic,” said Senate President Pro Tem Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven.

Voting against the arbitration were three Republicans: Eric Berthel of Watertown, Ryan Fazio of Greenwich and Rob Sampson of Wolcott. 

Berthel said he did not begrudge the contributions of the employees who continued to work during the pandemic, but found it unfair to private sector workers who received lesser amounts. 

Separately, the state has provided bonuses of up to $1,000 to roughly 150,000 workers in the private sector who earned less than $150,000 per year working full-time in grocery stores, nursing homes and other essential positions.

Private sector front-line workers who earned less than $50,000 per year — or 66,000 applicants — received a $1,000 bonus. Those making between $50,000 and $100,000 got bonuses ranging from $800 to $200. Those earning between $100,000 and $150,000 got $100 bonuses.

“I think there’s a level of unfairness to other people that are not covered under this agreement who also worked very hard,” Berthel said.

The House approved the award last week in a 129-15 vote.

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.