Fifteen labor unions representing more than 40,000 Connecticut state employees announced last week that they plan to seek arbitration to secure special pay for workers who faced considerable health risk during the worst of the pandemic, according to CT Mirror. The State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition’s decision comes after periodic discussions over the past year failed to yield an agreement.
“SEBAC leadership continues to advocate for pandemic hero pay that will recognize our state members’ sacrifices throughout COVID-19 and the critical role they, like all front-line workers played, in getting all of us through the worst of the pandemic,” coalition leaders said in the joint statement.
A spokesman for Governor Ned Lamont said that the administration has tried to stay within the $35 million budget set for pandemic compensation for state workers. He left open the possibility that arbitration could be averted. “We hope to reach an agreement soon as the parties continue to talk and explore options for resolution,” spokesman Chris Collibee said.
Earlier this year, the administration and unions negotiated a four-year package of wage hikes, 2% annual step increases, and $3,500 in bonuses, which were said to be essential to stem a major surge in worker retirements. (More than 4,000 state employees retired between January and June 2022.) Contracts ratified by the legislature did not address pandemic pay.