Bridgeport cops win workers’ comp fight
BRIDGEPORT — State labor officials in a blistering decision have concluded that the city owes money to more than 100 police officers receiving workers’ compensation and that City Hall showed “bad faith” toward its men and women in blue.
“These officers were doing their job, protecting the city, and, once injured, got paid much less than they would normally,” Police Sgt. Chuck Paris, the union president, said in an interview.
Paris could not say exactly how much members of Bridgeport’s Finest must be reimbursed, but estimated some will receive thousands of dollars. He said the city is calculating the numbers, per the Connecticut Board of Labor Relation’s recent ruling, and the union will then double-check those figures.
At issue was something called a “salary supplement” negotiated in the Bridgeport cops’ contract. The supplement ensured that officers who were injured on the job and receiving, under state workers’ compensation laws, a portion of their regular paycheck would, instead, be paid closer to their full salary by the city.
In the final months of 2015 — the tail end of Mayor Bill Finch’s administration — the union argued that the city was not providing the correct supplements. That matter appeared to have been settled that September, but the problems resumed after Mayor Joe Ganim took office in December 2015 and there were staff changes in the Office of Labor Relations.
“We kept trying to explain to them the formula, but for some reason the city wasn’t getting it,” said Paris, who, along with the union, had endorsed Ganim over Finch in the 2015 Democratic mayoral primary. “People were going out (on workers’ compensation) and sometimes not getting paid at all or a very minimal amount.”
“We think that the language here (in the police contract) is unambiguous regarding calculation of the workers’ compensation supplement,” wrote the labor board, going so far as to call the city’s approach “absurd.”
The board also criticized City Hall for dragging its feet when it came to answering questions about how the supplements were being calculated.
“The city took nearly 15 months to disclose a single example of its formula and then only at our ... request,” wrote the board. “Since the formula for calculating the supplement is the crux of the dispute, the city’s unresponsiveness suggests a deliberate attempt to obfuscate. Moreover, we believe that the city’s continued use of (the) formula ... is indicative of a calculated decision to ‘double down’ on an indefensible position.”
The labor board ordered the city to provide the police union all supplement formulas used since July 1, 2015, and to “make whole” all union members who received workers’ compensation supplements since July 1, 2015, “for any losses incurred.”
Ganim’s office did not respond to a request for comment.