MDOC fails corrections officers: MCO forced to go to impasse to address the staffing crisis

Michigan Corrections Organization and the Office of the State Employer are going to impasse on contract negotiations, and our key outstanding issue is the ever-growing staffing crisis. MCO has proposed several possible solutions to retain staff, but OSE and the Michigan Department of Corrections have denied all of them because of their cost – even though the funding required would be a small fraction of the overall corrections budget.

“For the last few months at the bargaining table, and years before that in other venues, MCO has been proposing solutions to the persistent staffing crisis in Michigan prisons. Some of our ideas have been heard, some have not,” said MCO Executive Director Andy Potter, MCO’s lead negotiator. “Let me be clear – the excuses and can-kicking end today. The employer has failed their officers, so MCO leaders will do everything in our power to implement real solutions to this crisis, even if the MDOC won’t. That’s why we’re going to impasse.”

MCO leaders look forward to presenting data and arguments to the Michigan Civil Service Commission Impasse Panel on overtime, turnover and dangerously low staffing levels. For example, of all officers hired since 2012, one-third of them have already left employment as a corrections officer.

“Due to unimaginable working conditions, we’ve had a retention and recruitment problem that has spiraled out of control,” said MCO Legal Director Jeff Foldie. “There must be some added incentive and recognition for these officers, who routinely deal with assaults, threats, and long and irregular hours.  An incentive would help MDOC retain officers while they hire more, instead of letting their attrition problem get worse. What we are taking to impasse benefits the MDOC just as much as their employees.”

The staffing crisis affects more than just corrections officers and prisoners. Communities across our state are put in danger when there aren’t enough officers to ensure prisons can operate safely.

“MCO leaders understand that many other state employee unions have reached tentative agreements that are reasonable for their needs. But given what corrections officers have endured for the past several years, we must go to impasse,” MCO President Byron Osborn said.

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Michigan Corrections Organization/SEIU represents more than 6,000 corrections and forensic officers working at state prisons and at the Center for Forensic Psychiatry.