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Union leader says prison guards' contract talks OK, so far

July 26, 1998|By DAVE McMILLION

FUNKSTOWN - The union negotiating the first contract for Maryland correctional officers following the state's decision to allow collective bargaining says the negotiation process has been positive.

AFSCME, in alliance with the Teamsters, won an election to represent about 8,000 of the state's correctional officers and probation officers, including about 1,600 in Washington County, after Gov. Parris Glendening allowed collective bargaining for state employees in 1996.

So far, AFSCME and the state have agreed to a series of raises for correctional officers and probation officers.

The workers, who earn about $22,000 a year on starting, received a $900 a year raise this month and, in January, they are to receive an additional $375, said Steve Berger, president of AFSCME Local 1772.

Next July, workers are expected to get a $638 a year raise and the following January, a $637 raise is scheduled, Berger said.

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Yet to be negotiated are "non-economical" parts of the contract, which deals with issues like seniority and the grievance process, he said.

Concerning grievances, the union wants someone other than a state worker determining the merit of worker complaints, Berger said.

The union also wants promotions to be based on years of service, he said.

Berger talked about the two-year contract during a picnic the union held for workers Saturday at the Dixon-Troxell American Legion, Post 211. The picnic drew near 100 workers, Berger said.

Del. D. Bruce Poole, D-Washington, who attended the picnic, said hopefully the two sides will work out an agreement that pleases workers. Poole said there was a lot of criticism when the governor allowed collective bargaining.

But Poole said overall, it's been a postive move for state employees. "When they have good benefits and wages, it helps us all," he said.

Correctional officers in some nearby states earn up to $10,000 more than officers here, Berger said.

"Hopefully, they're going to be able to come up with an agreement that's fair to everybody," said state Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, who also attended the picnic.

Previously, four different unions represented correctional officers at the state prison complex south of Hagerstown, but for grievances only. They could not collectively bargain for wages and benefits.

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