Andrew Katrenya was among the state employees who have already received a layoff notice. Last May he left his job as a police officer in Naugatuck to begin training to become a state trooper. He and 56 other recruits graduated from the state police academy in November but all of them received notice last week that their positions had been eliminated.
Katrenya said if he knew last May what would happen to his class he probably wouldn’t have left Naugatuck.
“I think you’ve got a lot guys and girls in my class who left good jobs, not only police departments but private sector jobs. I think unfortunately what you’re going to see is, if the layoffs go through, these guys are going to go back to their old jobs or go to other jobs,” he said. They’re not going to come back here, whether it’s because they have a bad taste in their mouths or they signed a contract.”
So the state will have lost valuable people and the money they spent training them, he said. Katrenya said he didn’t know if his old police department would take him back, he left them after all. But he said he will certainly be looking for other jobs, the mortgage still needs to get paid. His bills aren’t as pressing as some members of his class, who have recently had newborns, he said.
Katrenya declined to comment on how he voted on the original agreement but said he’s hopefully for the sake of his classmates that today’s announcement results in the passing of an agreement.
Andrew Matthews, his union president, said the changes to the bylaws are a good thing for SEBAC but he said he was originally of the opinion the deal should have been tweaked and voted upon without changing the bylaws.
State troopers shot down the original agreement 711 to 246, with 138 members not voting. But things have changed a bit since then, he said.
“Our members are focused on, not only their fellow brothers and sisters getting laid off, they’re also focused on the legislation that almost passed,” he said, referring to a bill that changed the made changes to the calculation of state employee pensions.
That bill passed the Senate with broad support during a June special session aimed at closing the budget gap left by the rejection of the agreement. Matthews said his members are taking seriously the legislative attempt to have their pension calculated with no overtime and their sick time reduced to only 10 days a year.
“Some of them probably have seen that there are going to be other consequences like their daily assignments being back to patrol. I think it’s a variation of a lot of different things,” he said.
The new change to the bylaws may have unintended consequences. The current agreement is considered to have remained open, he said. But the fact that the requirements for ratification were lowered while the requirements for opening up an agreement remain high, may make unions think harder about sitting back down at a negotiating table two or three years down the line, he said.
“My guess is that they’re not going to be comfortable with [opening and agreement] because they see what just happened now,” he said. “In some of their opinions it feels like we changed the bylaws just to appease the governor’s office.”