Detention workers union to vote on 1-year contract this month

Agreement would provide a 5% pay increase

April 12, 2000|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,SUN STAFF

Although many of the long-term concerns of Anne Arundel County's 220 detention officers are not resolved, a one-year contract providing a 5 percent pay increase will come up for a vote by membership this month.

Negotiators will continue to work on a three-year agreement to address pension, special pay and other long-term benefits, according to union and county officials.

If the detention workers accept the proposed one-year contract, the officers would also see their pay scale compressed from 19 years to 10 years to reach the top, said Carol Summerlyn, a representative of the Communications Workers of America, which acts as the bargaining unit for detention officers.

It takes detention officers 14 steps and 19 years to reach the top of the pay scale at $38,545. Detention officers start at $25,203.

Under the new contract, which would be effective in July, officers would receive $27,203 to start and $42,200 when they reach the top of the scale after 10 years.

The tentative agreement will be presented to membership Friday and Monday. Union members will vote April 19.

Some members saw the proposal last week at a regularly scheduled membership meeting, Summerlyn said.

"We've made a good bit of progress, but we need to start now preparing for negotiations next year," she said.

County personnel director Randy Schultz said offering a one-year proposal allows county officials more time to better assess the county's current and future fiscal situation. "We may be able to address some of the long-term issues better," he said.

Regionally, officials are having trouble recruiting detention workers, Schultz said.

The pay increase will help, especially since the county needs to hire 30 to 50 corrections officers by August when an addition is opened at the Jennifer Road detention center in Parole, said Clifford Thrasher, a detention officer for 10 years who is president of the local union.

"It puts us in the competitive range," he said. " It's also one of the better offers we've gotten money-wise from the county."

Union officials say the county's offer at least partially recognizes how important detention officers' jobs are.

"It can be a very dangerous job," said Summerlyn. "Often the public doesn't think of detention workers as part of public safety. But they provide a valuable and needed public safety. They are professional and highly trained."

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