BY: Citizens Count
Contract negotiations between the Governor’s office and the union representing the state’s corrections officers have been stalled for several months. The impasse is due largely to a disagreement between the state and Teamsters Local 633 regarding funding for officers’ wages.
Low pay and staffing shortages
Currently, Granite State corrections officers’ salaries start at $34,424 per year with an additional $1,300 in hazardous duty pay. The union believes these wages are too low and blames them for the severe hiring shortage across NH prisons. The Concord men’s prison, for example, has fewer than 190 uniformed staffers— far fewer than the 371 needed for the facility to operate normally. This shortage led to a $5.8 million increase in overtime pay issued by the Dept. of Corrections between 2009 and 2015.
Impact on the new women's prison
This recruiting challenge is also likely to delay the opening of Concord’s brand new $48 million women’s prison. The Department of Corrections estimated they needed to hire 74 new officers to staff the prison, but the Legislature only provided enough funding to hire 55 in the current two-year budget.
Third party arbitration
An independent “fact finder” has been appointed to examine the contract dispute and offer a solution to the two parties. In the meantime, the prior two-year agreement will remain in effect until a new one can be reached.
Is 10% enough?
Those siding with the Governor’s Office believe Gov. Sununu has made every effort to accommodate the union. They point out that the two-year budget for the Department of Corrections includes a nearly 10 percent increase, among the largest for any department in the state.
Those siding with the Teamsters Local 633 point out that the net result of that 10 percent across-the-board increase would only add up to a 3 percent raise due to decreases in differential pay and hazard pay. They argue that the only solution to the staffing shortage in state prisons is to raise officer wages to make them more competitive with pay rates in Massachusetts and the federal prison in Berlin.
Do you think the Governor’s proposed 10 percent across-the-board increase for the corrections department is fair? Or, do you believe the state should invest more in its prison system? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.