Roughly 1,700 nonunionized Connecticut state employees will receive pay increases — and a one-time $2,000 bonus for some — to help catch them up financially to their unionized colleagues and subsequently address attrition and retirement challenges the state is facing, Gov. Ned Lamont's administration announced Thursday.
Managers' salaries have not kept pace with union salaries over the past decade, putting some in the position of earning less than the people they manage, said Office of Policy and Management Secretary Melissa McCaw.
“We felt ... one of the most efficient ways and equitable ways to make a dent in this challenge was to go back and provide those same increases to the managers that had already been given to our union employees,” she said.
McCaw explained that not extending the pay increases that were included in a 2017 agreement with unionized workers to nonunion employees has led to “significant attrition" within the managerial ranks.
The state's pay scale for commissioners and other managers is also not competitive relative to what “top talent” can make in the private world, said Josh Geballe, Lamont’s chief operating officer. In addition, he said some current state workers have been reluctant to become managers because they may have to take a pay cut.
Under the plan to catch managers up with the increases already received by unionized workers, eligible workers will receive a 3.5% cost-of-living increase, a 4% wage increase and a $2,000 bonus. The bonus will only apply to those people hired before June 30, 2018. In the future, pay increases for managers will be tied to increases negotiated with unionized workers.
“We're getting them caught back up,” Geballe said of the managers, who comprise about 6% of the executive branch workforce. “We’re making sure that we’re not creating the same challenges going forward.”
The boost in pay and the bonus, which total about $13.3 million, does not apply to managers working in the legislative and judicial branches of government or in higher education.
The Democratic governor's push to improve pay for nonunion executive branch staff comes at at time when the state is expecting to see a significant number of retirements. More than 8,000 state employees are eligible for retirement in 2022, with 72% seriously considering retirement, according to recent employee survey.
Meanwhile, Lamont's administration is in negotiations with unionized workers after wage agreements for many expired June 30. On Tuesday, hundreds of members of 15 unions, which represent approximately 40,000 state employees across 34 bargaining units, gathered at the state Capitol to demand “fair contracts and good faith negotiations, collaboration on racial and economic justice policies and practices, job security and fair compensation," according to a statement from the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition.
House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, said he understands why Lamont is attempting to address the pay imbalance, but questioned how it will impact the current contract negotiations with the unions.
“Unfortunately, our state is mired in a vicious circle that’s fueled by people at the Capitol whose baseline position is to give state employee unions everything they want,” Candelora said in a statement. “That attitude has contributed to a structural gulf between non-union managers and the unionized employees that serve under them.”