The same day the Connecticut State Police Union was in court fighting to win back the jobs of 56 state troopers, it filed another lawsuit seeking an injunction against the Commissioner of Emergency Services and Public Protection for allegedly violating its labor contract.
In the lawsuit the union argues that its contract requires the department to make 300 days available for union business. Until the rejection of the labor agreement and the Aug. 22 rally at the state Capitol, union officials were only expected to give advance notice of their leave to the administration and it was generally approved.
But since late August things have changed.
Just two days after Connecticut State Police Union President Andrew Matthews led a rally at the state Capitol to protest the impending layoffs of 56 troopers he was informed he would be transferred from his assignment with the Board of Firearms to Troop H in Hartford. He was given an evening shift with a rotating schedule of five days on, three off.
“In making the assignment of Matthews to Troop H on the evening shift, defendant chose to avoid assigning Matthews to an opening in a day-shift position closer to his home,” the lawsuit says.
On Sept. 1 Matthews sent an email to Jerry McGuire, the union’s labor relations director, to submit a request to take Sept. 13-16, 20-24, and Sept. 29-Oct. 2, as union business leave. A majority of them were denied due to “operational needs.”
With 56 fewer troopers the state has admitted it had to redeploy and reposition its troopers in order to ensure public safety, which meant more desk duty troopers would need to be back on patrol.
The union lawsuit goes onto say that a Sept. 9 letter sent to the union by the Commanding Officer-Labor Relations James Canon Jr. makes a unilateral change to the collective bargaining agreement and the union business leave policy.
“Personnel will not be permitted to modify their posted schedule for purposes of utilizing union business leave and any such request to do so shall be forwarded through the employer’s chain of command,” Cannon wrote. “Union business leave shall only be authorized for union events that fall during the regularly scheduled shift of an employee and not for a period of time in which the employee would be considered off-duty.”
It also says that any employee who “fails to adhere to attendance regulations and/or policies consistent with the outcome of any agency decision as to whether or not to grant a particular request for UBL, may subject themselves (sic) to disciplinary action up to and including termination.”
Roy Occhiogrosso, Gov. Dannel P, Malloy’s senior communications adviser, has previously said Matthews’ reassignment to Troop H in Hartford was not retaliation for his union advocacy.
“It’s ridiculous to even suggest that,“ Occhiogrosso said. He said six other sergeants, in addition to Matthews, were transferred back to patrol.
“Slots have to be filled. It’s my understanding that Sgt. Matthews lives in Enfield and has been transferred to Hartford. I don’t see how anyone could interpret that as being retaliatory,” Occhigrosso added.
But Matthews has said the reassignment to Troop H in Hartford, instead of Troop C in Tolland was retaliation.
“One can only suspect that because of the rally that was held two days ago … I believe it’s an attempt to silence the union and our members,” Matthews said back on Aug. 24, the same day he learned of his reassignment. “It’s a shot across the bow in our view to try to chill our speech.”
Associate Attorney General Perry Zinn-Rowthorn said he’s seen the lawsuit and is still reviewing it at this time. He said it was too soon to say anything about it.