Mandations and low pay
Jail officers want parity
By FRITZ MAYER
MONTICELLO, NY Whats a mandation? When youre talking about the correction officers at the Sullivan County Jail, a mandation is overtime, often a double shift, which the officer cant decline. Another mandation regarding the jail is that the state requires that it be staffed with 102 officers at all times.
There are currently 91 officers. Others are at mandated training, out sick or on disability. All this means that officers are mandated to fill in with double shifts. This happened 315 times in the month of August.
Joe Manning, vice president of the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) for the county jail officers, said that these mandations hurt the officers home lives and their professional lives; three 16-hour days in a row can cause an officer to behave less diligently than he otherwise might.
The matter came up at a meeting at the government center on October 1, when 16 officers turned out to let lawmakers know that they are not happy about having worked without a raise and without a contract since December 2007.
Why cant the county simply hire more workers? The answer, said Christopher Decker, a labor-relations specialist with CSEA, is primarily because the top salary for a correction officer at the Ulster County Jail is $55,806, or $14,000 more than the top salary for the same position in the Sullivan County Jail. Decker told lawmakers, Youre just not getting quality candidates to take the test. When you can make $14,000 more to go to Ulster County, youre not going to bother to work in Sullivan County. They know what the facility looks like; they know guys are getting mandated three times a week.
Lawmakers were universally sympathetic and promised that the negotiations, which have been ongoing for more than a year, off and on, would be ramped up again.
Lawmaker Ron Hiatt said the correction officers were the last bastion of non-parity in county government after the county had adjusted salaries for the probation department, the sheriffs road patrol, nutritionists and others over the past several years. Now, he said, there was no opposition to raising the pay for correction officers at the jail.
He said, Its hard to talk about increasing salaries when youre looking at a big budget crunch. Well put the budget crunch aside and deal with that separately.
After the meeting, the officers said they were pleased with the results.