Negotiators agree on raise of 5% for prison guards, public-safety personnel Same request likely for all employed by Maryland

October 07, 1997|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF

Concluding the first round of collective bargaining for state employees, negotiators agreed yesterday on a pay raise of about 5 percent for some 8,000 prison guards and other public-safety personnel.

The proposal would give each employee an additional $1,275 annually, and state officials said Gov. Parris N. Glendening will likely propose the same pay boost for all 72,000 state employees.

That $1,275 increase, which must be approved by the General Assembly, would give the average state worker a 3.5 percent pay raise, at a cost to taxpayers of $56 million next year.

Glendening, who launched the bargaining process for state employees with an executive order last year, called the agreement "historic."

"The successful completion of these negotiations will result in a fair and responsible cost-of-living adjustment for the hard-working men and women who put their lives on the line every day in Maryland correctional facilities," Glendening said in a statement.

The governor's 1996 executive order came only weeks after the General Assembly had defeated legislation to give state workers collective bargaining, something they had sought for decades.

Legislators protested that the governor had ignored the Assembly's wishes by issuing the order.

A coalition of three leading business groups in the state filed a lawsuit to overturn the order, saying Glendening had overstepped his constitutional authority.

The suit was dismissed by a trial judge, but the business groups have taken the case to the Maryland Court of Appeals, where a decision is pending.

State negotiators reached the agreement with representatives of a coalition of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

The agreement must be ratified by the bargaining unit's membership, but AFSCME leaders praised the tentative pact.

"I think it's a good and fair settlement," said Diane L. King, spokeswoman for AFSCME Council 92. "This is a first step in fixing the inequities that have been presented to state employees over the last several years in inadequate or nonexistent pay raises."

State workers have received only two cost-of-living pay increases -- totaling 5 percent -- in the last seven years.

Under the agreement reached yesterday, each employee would receive a pay raise of $1,275 in each of the next two years.

Negotiators agreed on the flat sum approach to give the biggest raises to employees earning the lowest salaries.

Any pay raise must be approved by the General Assembly during its annual budget deliberations, which will begin in January.

Del. Maggie L. McIntosh, a Baltimore Democrat who heads an Appropriations subcommittee that oversees state personnel issues, called the proposed pay raise "fair and reasonable."

But Del. Robert H. Kittleman, head of the House Republican caucus, said the proposal is "bad news."

"Last year, they were talking 2 or 3 percent raises," said Kittleman, of Howard County. "This is not a good start."

On top of the boost, many workers in the public-safety unit will also receive as much as 2.5 percent more in salary, thanks to a lengthening of the paid work day.

The agreement calls for a 12-minute paid roll call preceding the normal eight-hour shift at all facilities, a provision that will cost about $3.3 million annually, state budget Secretary Frederick W. Puddester said.

Some institutions now have no paid roll-call time, while others have a six-minute period.

Puddester and union leaders said the change gives workers a better chance to learn about trouble spots in the prisons.

"It provides for increased safety for the public, as well as the people working in the facility," said AFSCME's King.

The agreement also calls for the creation of labor-management groups, and it gives workers two days a year of bereavement leave. They now receive none.

The legislature will also have to consider some of the proposed workplace rule changes.

Pub Date: 10/07/97

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