A new union agreement between the state of Connecticut and supervisors in the Department of Children and Families will cost the state $1.2 million per year in annual wage and benefit increases was approved in the Senate and the House of Representatives on March 4.
The arbitrated deal has been in the works since 2017 and the wage increases are based on the 2017 SEBAC agreement, granting 11 percent pay increases over two years for roughly 100 DCF supervisors, and includes a one-time, lump-sum bonus of $2,000.
Prior to 2017, these employees were classified as managers. However, the state reclassified their position as supervisors, allowing them to unionize and piggy-back on the 2017 SEBAC deal negotiated between Gov. Dannel Malloy and the State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition.
According to the arbitrator’s decision, the DCF employees “were classified as managers in the State personnel system before they organized as a unit of AFSCME. At that time, the State changed their title from Program Manager to Program Supervisor.”
The approximately 100 members of this bargaining unit are employed by DCF. They were classified as managers in the State personnel system before they organized as a unit of AFSMCE. At that time, the State changed their title from Program Manager to Program Supervisor.Arbitrator’s Decision
According to the arbitrated decision, the program supervisors oversee social work supervisors in six DCF regional offices who, in turn, oversee roughly five social workers.
“Members of the bargaining unit testified to the number of employees reporting to them and to the number of cases represented by these employees,” the decision reads. “These numbers ranged from about 35 to 46 employees covering 400 to 600 cases.”
Connecticut state law does not allow for managers to be part of a union, however, the State Board of Labor Relations in 2017 certified the new bargaining unit as “All Department of Children and Families Program Managers,” following a near-unanimous vote to form a union by the managers.
The move is part of a growing trend in Connecticut to unionize more top-level employees.
As of 2018, at least 94 percent of the state workforce was already part of a bargaining unit, but unions have made in-roads into organizing top-tier employees and miscellaneous employees who were not previously organized.
The 2019 legislative session saw the approval of 12 arbitrated collective bargaining agreements costing a total of $44 million and 608 employees were added into state employee unions, including assistant attorneys general, deputy wardens and various judicial employees.
The newly added bargaining units, by and large, received the same wage increases outlined in the 2017 SEBAC agreement, which is estimated to cost the state $433.8 million by 2022.
Connecticut lawmakers are currently considering a bill that would classify probate court employees as state employees for the purpose of collective bargaining, as well, which could cost anywhere from $400,000 to upwards of $1 million.
The collective bargaining agreement for DCF supervisors went to arbitration over wages, compensatory time and vacation time. The arbitrator sided with the union on wages and vacation time but sided with the state on compensatory time.
The DCF supervisors were allowed to retain the method by which they accumulated vacation time as managers, accumulating a maximum of 120 days vacation based on years of service, giving them more vacation time than other members of the P-2 Social and Human Services bargaining unit.
The arbitrator said this matches the vacation allowance granted to the assistant attorneys general in 2019 and that adjusting the vacation time would result in the employees being worse off than before.
The arbitrator, Susan R. Meredith, in 2012 ordered the reinstatement of state employees who were fired by Malloy for food stamp fraud in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene.