Nebraska unions gain more workers since contract renegotiations

The enrollment classes of NAPE and FOP employees are increasing in size due to raises in salaries and hourly pay.
Published: Sep. 14, 2023 at 7:12 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - The Nebraska Association of Public Employees and the Nebraska Fraternal Order of Police have seen growth in staffing numbers since the last rounds of renegotiating with the governor. Their main ask was for higher pay.

Both organizations hope these added benefits will pull the next generation into their field.

“These are the kinds of jobs that you get to directly impact your neighbors’ lives, and they’re good union jobs,” said Justin Hubly, NAPE-AFSCME executive director. “They have benefits. They have a career trajectory, so I would certainly encourage young Nebraskans to consider a life in public service.”

The pandemic increased the worker shortage and left gaps in Nebraska’s workforce.

For example, Hubly said the Department of Motor Vehicles closed more than one-third of their offices throughout the course of last year because they couldn’t pay drivers’ license examiners well enough.

NAPE, which involves 8,000 workers, renegotiated with the governor’s office last winter and fall until reaching an agreement before 2023. This agreement was enacted July 1.

Now public service employees get a 10-27% salary increase within two years. ‘The first year includes a 5% increase and extra pay for positive work performance. With the higher pay, NAPE is already seeing growth, even though they don’t have specific numbers yet.

“The turnover tide has started to stem a little bit, and we’re starting to see people stay a little bit longer knowing that these raises just went into effect,” Hubly said. “People have seen the increase in the number of people when we’re seeing people at their new employment orientations, the class sizes are bigger.”

Hubly said NAPE will keep fighting for parental leave and early retirement benefits for their workers during the next round of negotiations. They were not approved during this past round.

In the meantime, the Nebraska corrections union and members of the Department of Human Services are reaping the benefits of their contract agreement from last year. A staffing shortage was nothing new to their field before the pandemic.

“The pool of people that are willing to do this kind of work has shrunk dramatically over the last 10 years,” said Jerry Brittain, the vice president of FOP. “There’s a lot of reasons for it, but when people are in high school, they don’t check wanting to be a (corrections officer) as an option.”

One of the contract’s benefits is a $8 per hour pay raise. For example, a first-year corrections corporal or case worker’s pay of $20 per hour increased to $28 per hour. Employees also get a $1 per hour raise each year, with a cap of $34 for a corporal or case worker.

All overtime for Corrections and DHHS employees covered by the FOP will be paid out at two times the hourly rate and two and a half times the hourly rate on holidays. This will be in place until the staffing crisis ends.

The agreement also increases tuition assistance to $10,000 a year and military leave to 440 hours a year. New parents will also be able to take 12 weeks of family and medical leave after the birth of a child.

“We attract a lot of younger folks that are looking to develop a career and a family and one of the easier ways to do this is to have your schooling paid for,” Brittain said.

Since these changes, orientation class grew from about 15 people to nearly 70 people, causing the FOP to find more options for training new people. Within a three or four month period, they completely filled a deficit of about 500 staff members within corrections facilities.

The correction union’s next projects involve growing staff numbers in the Reception and Treatment Center and planning to fill a new prison with workers.

The governor released a statement as well, saying:

“Recent labor agreements with FOP, including the deal entered into this year by Governor Pillen, have improved public safety by increasing prison staffing.  We’ve increased our ranks by over 400 protective services officers since November of 2021. The Pillen administration continues to work with labor representatives to make sure we have the right workforce to keep the public safe.”

Read our past coverage about the NAPE and FOP renegotiations here.