The retirements of 40 state police officers freed up enough funds in the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection budget to rehire 56 rookie troopers who were laid off after their bargaining unit rejected concessions in August, according to state officials.
The 56 troopers belonged to one of two bargaining groups to vote down a two-year wage freeze, and four years of job security. The decision to rehire them comes at the same time as their lawsuit against the state is still pending in Hartford Superior Court. The lawsuit, filed by their union, calls for an injunction against the state and asks it to rehire the 56 troopers. It also alleges that the state is well-below the mandatory staffing level of 1,248 troopers, even if the 56 troopers were rehired. No decision has been yet in that case.
When the vast majority of the state employee bargaining units voted to approve the second concession agreement, most state employees who were laid off under the contingency plan saw their layoffs rescinded. But shortly after the deal was ratified, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced that the troopers’ layoffs notices would not be rescinded.
That changed Monday when Public Safety Commissioner Reuben Bradford and Office of Policy and Management Secretary Ben Barnes released a statement announcing they would be re-hired.
The concessions package state workers ratified made changes to their retirement benefits, prompting some employees to retire before they might have otherwise. Forty state police officers of varying ranks opted to retire on Sept. 1 and Oct. 1, the statement said. The combined salaries of those officers equaled more than the combined salaries of those laid off.
The statement said the salaries of the 40 retirees totaled about $2.25 million, while the total salaries of the 56 troopers who will have their layoff notices rescinded was about $1.88 million, making the re-hires a revenue neutral decision.
All the troopers will be notified that their layoffs will be rescinded today and will be placed back on the state payroll in the order they were laid off. The vast majority will return on Oct. 7 and Oct. 21, the statement said. Bradford said all of the returning state troopers will be assigned to the road.
“As a former State Trooper myself, it pained me to send layoff notices to the 56 men and women who were a part of our State Police force,” Bradford said. “But there was a fiscal reality that we were facing, and we couldn’t keep people on staff if we didn’t have the money to pay them. With the retirements of some of the longest-serving members of the State Police, we were able to rescind the layoffs of these 56 state troopers.”
Barnes said it was always Malloy’s hope to see the 56 troopers returned to service if the fiscal circumstances allowed it.
“I’m pleased to say that we are now able to do that. It should be noted, however, that this does not reverse the process already started by Commissioner Bradford to streamline the department and see more sworn personnel performing hazardous duty functions around the state, and more civilians doing jobs that are currently being done by sworn personnel,” he said.
Andrew Matthews, president of the Connecticut State Police Union, called the decision a positive step forward which will help to foster a good relationship between the union, the state police leadership and the Malloy administration in the future.
“I’m happy to see our members able to do what they were called to do, which is protect the public,” he said.
Matthews would not comment on what effect the announcement may have on the pending lawsuit but said he would be meeting with legal staff in the future to make that determination.