LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) – The state and the union representing security staff at Nebraska’s prisons have reached an agreement on a new pay plan that includes raises and professional step increases. The deal is contingent on ratification by members of the Fraternal Order of Police.
Understaffing caused both by high turnover and difficulties in filling openings led Corrections Director Scott Frakes to declare staff emergencies in recent months at both the State Penitentiary in Lincoln and the prison in Tecumseh.
Union local President Mike Chipman said in the release announcing the deal that it will put the department on the right path to address the staffing crisis that’s plagued the prison system for years.
Chipman said being able to qualify for wage increases through a step plan for the first time in decades will make corrections a more appealing long-term career choice and hopefully improve retention.
Governor Pete Ricketts said the state has been making progress on addressing staffing issues, pointing a new merit bonus system that took effect in April and to the turnover rate being on pace to fall for the second straight year, but called the two sides coming together on the pay plan another big step.
Ricketts said it underscores his administration’s ongoing commitment to “the dedicated men and women who tirelessly work in protective services to keep the public safe around the clock,” and will help recruit and retain a strong and effective team.
The plan reclassifies corrections officers as corporals who will be placed on a new 7-step pay scale along with corrections unit caseworkers and sergeants.
Starting pay for corporals and caseworkers jumps to $20 per hour with the minimum for sergeants going to $24. Current employees will start on the scale at either the new minimum or the same dollar amount the minimum has been raised, whichever is higher.
The plan also gives the state more flexibility to implement 12-hour shifts at high-security facilities, to issue lump sum bonuses up to 10% of base wages for staffers at those facilities, and to start experienced correction staffers from other jurisdictions above the minimum rate.