State auditors found 201 union representatives at the Department of Correction racked up $894,199 of paid union leave time over two years, according to a newly released audit of Connecticut’s prison system.

“The time represents an aggregate of 28,449 hours, totaling $894,199 in salary, by 201 union employees representing approximately 4,650 union members over the 2 years reviewed,” the auditors wrote. “Of the 28,449 hours charged, 25,423 (89%) were charged in full-day increments.”

Union leave time is used by employees and union representatives to attend to union business while still being paid by the state. Union business includes, grievance hearings, arbitrations and, according to the most recent DOC collective bargaining agreement, to attend the AFL-CIO convention.

The 2017 contract between the state of Connecticut and the NP-4 Corrections bargaining unit, increased union leave time from 500 “person days” per year to 650 per year. It also added 70 to 80 person days to attend AFL-CIO’s annual convention and its international convention.

According to the audit, an employee on union business leave should return to work if there is 1.5 work hours remaining on their shift, but the vast majority of union time was in full-day increments.

A study by the Yankee Institute, found the state of Connecticut paid out $4.1 million for 121,000 work hours over the course of 2015 alone, with some union stewards spending most of the year on union business leave.

The study was based on data provided by the Office of Policy and Management and found the DOC accounted for, by far, the amount of union leave time -- 45,726 hours, totaling $1.49 million.

The newly released audit covered fiscal years 2014 and 2015. The audit only accounted for certain forms of paid union business leave, while the study documented all paid union leave time provided by the state.

Additionally, an anonymous whistleblower package sent to members of the media and state lawmakers in 2016 detailed union leave time taken by a number of DOC union representatives.

The documents showed union leave time coinciding with weekends and holidays, essentially allowing DOC union representatives and presidents to not work in their assigned job for months.

Legislative attempts to curtail union business leave spending have met resistance from union leaders who claim the practice saves the state money.

The auditors reviewed a sampling of 40 union business leave forms and found that none of them were signed off on by the union representative and 34 were not signed by the employee’s supervisor.

The DOC agreed with the auditors’ findings and responded that it is working with the Office of Labor Relations “to develop and deploy a policy and practice that holds union representatives accountable for the time that they are requesting/paid while respecting their rights and prerogatives as union leaders.”

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