(Updated 9:39 a.m.) The $1.6 billion labor savings and concession package may have been adopted by 32 of the 34 bargaining units last week, but it won’t stop at least two unions from voicing their opinions over prison closures and possible layoffs.
Today, two of the AFSCME unions suing the state over the closure of Bergin Correctional Institute in Mansfield will hold a press conference outside Hartford Correctional Center to talk about the overcrowding that’s resulted.
The injunction filed Aug. 9 in Hartford Superior Court calls for the prison to remain open and the inmates returned.
Any time the state decides to close a prison, it raises concerns about the working conditions and the mental and physical health and safety of correctional officers, the lawsuit said.
Those dangers are generated by a lack of secured sleeping areas for inmates, necessitating the placement of large groups of inmates in make-shift sleeping areas that were never meant to be living quarters, the injunction said. This causes unrest among inmates and makes it more difficult for Correction Officers to keep an eye on them, the lawsuit says.
Prior to the 11 a.m. press conference at Hartford Correctional Center, the Connecticut State Police Union will gather at the state Capitol at 10 a.m. to voice their concerns about the statutory staffing levels it says are not being maintained. It will also ask Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to spare their 56 troopers who received layoff notices.
The Connecticut State Police Union on Friday voted down a two-year wage freeze and four years of job security, a move that exposes the unit to layoffs. The vote to reject the wage freeze and job security was 123 to 657.
Troopers supported the changes in the agreement to the health and pension benefits. That vote was 448 to 329.
According to a press release from the union the troopers plan to make a case for keeping their jobs at the Monday rally.
They will also point out that the current number of state troopers, 1,127, is below the 1,248 statutorily mandated level.
When the layoffs looked possible after the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition rejected the first labor agreement, Roy Occhiogrosso, Malloy’s senior communications official said the governor was confident the state police could handle the layoffs without a risk to the public. It will just involve state police who have been working other assignments for awhile to be moved back on the road, he said.
But Andrew Matthews, president of the Connecticut State Police Union, has said people need to realize that much of the work the state police do doesn’t involve uniformed on-the-road troopers.
“We have about 725 of our troopers that perform uniform functions. The rest of them are doing statutorily mandated jobs,” he said.
That involves sex offender investigations, the state’s elite major crimes squad, narcotics and gangs, he said.
“The public doesn’t see that on a day-to-day basis. You strip those units and you put them back on patrol, and remember we’re already 156 troopers below our high in 2009, so where do all those positions go,” he said.
The result will be either those jobs don’t get done or the taxpayers pay for trooper overtime, he said.
Meanwhile, Matthews told the Associated Press he also plans to ask the legislature to withdraw from SEBAC, the coalition of 15 unions created by the legislature to negotiate for health and pension benefits with the governor.
Matthews told the Associated Press, “the state police respect SEBAC and what they’ve accomplished, but believe their law enforcement jobs are distinctly different from most state employee positions given the serious physical risks.”