Corrections staff union in negotiations with Governor as staffing shortage worsens

10/11 NOW at 6
Published: Oct. 7, 2021 at 2:29 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - The Nebraska State Department of Corrections announced earlier this week that Tecumseh State Corrections Institute will move to a modified schedule because of staffing shortages.

It’s the latest change made because of the ongoing staffing crisis.

“It’s just one more example of how staff are going to be more at risk and inmates aren’t going to get the services they deserve,” Jerry Brittain, vice president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #88 said.

This change comes as the Fraternal Order of Police are actively bargaining with Governor Pete Ricketts, following an ombudsman’s report and legislative session which brought attention to the staff crisis in September.

“We’re hoping we’ll get a good deal with the governor but it’s going to have to be pretty aggressive to get ahead,” Michael Chipman, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #88 said.

Brittain said overall, NDCS is down more than 550 staffers and Tecumseh is down over 160.

But they said this modified schedule isn’t a sustainable solution.

“They’re going to put 70% of the staff on Monday through Thursday and the other 30% will cover the rest,” Chipman said.

This creates a few problems. First, it’s a security issue.

“What’s going to happen if there’s an emergency on one of those nights,” Chipman said.

This is especially concerning at Tecumseh.

“They’ve had a lot of assaults, a lot of the most serious results we’ve talked about recently,” Chipman said.

It also could cause more staff to quit.

“Yet again we’re messing with their schedules,” Chipman said. “You’d think a switch to having Friday, Saturday and Sunday off would be the better days off but if you’re used to having Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday off now you have to switch your life around, switch daycare around with less than ten days notice.”

Chipman said ten staff left jobs at Lincoln Corrections Center when that facility made this scheduling change and overall, in the last month 26 staff have left jobs across the system.

“This trend will continue if we don’t get a good deal now,” Chipman said. “I can’t express the now part more.”

Taylor Gage, a representative for Governor Pete Ricketts said the governor is discussing many of these issues with the FOP right now. An NDCS Representative didn’t comment on the situation or answer questions regarding the schedule change at Tecumseh but said NDCS Director Scott Frakes will speak at a legislative hearing October 13.

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