County, Prison Guards Make Little Progress On Contract

Two Sides Take Labor Impasse To The County Council

May 22, 1991|By Samuel Goldreich | Samuel Goldreich,Staff writer

The county is willing to pay $3,000 to bury any prison guard killed in the line of duty.

Beyond that, the Neall administration and theFraternal Order of Anne Arundel Detention Center Officers agreed on little else that mattered yesterday, when they took their contract negotiations impasse to the County Council.

County Executive Robert R. Neall pleaded poverty this year and asked the unions to extend their contracts until next year, when there might be money for a cost-of-living raise.

Every union agreed except the prison guards, who have been fighting the county since January1990, when Detention Center Director Richard Baker added 13 1/2 daysto their annual work schedule without added pay.

The contract stalemate involves 42 separate issues, but three major disputes are leftunresolved.

* The union wants a return to its six days on, three days off workweek.

* The union wants power to file class-action grievances instead of separate complaints for its 92 members. It also wants to expand the definition of a grievance to "any difference or dispute . . . arising directly out of the employment relationship."

* The union wants the county to end the use of contract employees.

An independent labor mediator recommended in favor of the union in anon-binding report and also said that the contract should have a preamble providing "procedures for the amicable resolution of disputes."

Michael Milanowski, the Office of Personnel's labor relations chief, argued that those procedures are already in the county charter and including them in the new contract would open it up to conflicting interpretations.

"When they argue over a preamble that they admit means nothing, I have a hard time swallowing that they entered this on good faith," Councilman Edward Middlebrooks, D-Severn said.

Mostof the two-hour hearing was devoted to the union's complaint that the prison guards were cheated out of fair pay under the new schedule.

Citing a record prison population and employee vacancies, Baker changed the workweek to five days on and two days off, rotating the fourth week to four days on and two days off. The effect was to add about 115 hours a year.

"They found themselves working at a wage rate that was half a percentage point less than what they bargained for," Kahn said.

The old contract gave the county the right to change the schedule to improve Detention Center operations, Milanowski said. Center Deputy Director James O'Neil added that the National Correctional Institute was unable to find another prison in the nation with a six-three work shift.

Milanowski also insisted that the county did not change the schedule simply to save money, which the old contract would not have allowed.

But Councilwoman Maureen Lamb was skeptical, saying that increased staffing at the center and a stabilized prison population have taken away the original rationale for changing theschedule.

"It looks like it's economic to me," she said.

The county has offered the union $200,000 to pay for the extra hours this year.

But union President Leigh Hauf, whose grievance to collect back pay has reached the Circuit Court, said the biggest complaint about the new rotation is that guards must wait almost five months to get a full weekend off.

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