Thanks to AFGE local leadership at the US Penitentiary Thomson and the Federal Correctional Complex Florence, staff at these two facilities will be getting a pay boost to help keep the severely understaffed prisons from losing even more employees.
At USP Thomson in northern Illinois, correctional officers and staff will be receiving a boost in their locality pay under a Dec. 15 recommendation from the President’s Pay Agent. USP Thomson will be moving from the Rest of U.S. pay locality to the Davenport pay locality.
AFGE Local 4070 has been pursuing the locality pay change for several years. The obstacle had been that there were too few GS employees to qualify, a fact that reflected critical staffing shortages at the high-security federal prison.
The local worked with management to hold job fairs each month this year to boost staffing at the prison, which ultimately served to allow the prison to meet the criteria for the higher locality pay.
In addition to the locality pay issue, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) in September also approved a request from the BOP, made on behalf of AFGE, to provide all prison employees at USP Thomson with 25% retention bonuses.
“We are beyond pleased that our hard-working employees will be moved into the higher paying locality. This change, in addition to the 25% retention bonuses we already secured, will go a long way toward helping us retain our experienced staff and recruit the additional staff we desperately need,” AFGE Local 4070 President Jon Zumkehr said.
The prison has hired 115 officers in the past year and is currently at an 84% staffing level.
The BOP has also approved a request from AFGE Local 1169 to provide 10% retention bonuses to staff at FCC Florence, south of Colorado Springs, Colo.
The approval was granted three months after the local staged a protest outside the prison complex to highlight unsafe working conditions stemming from the chronic understaffing of the federal prison complex, which has resulted in officers working vast amounts of forced overtime and non-officer employees including medical staff and counselors being assigned to work as correctional officers under a process called augmentation.
BOP previously had approved 10% retention bonuses for correctional officers at FCC Florence, which also houses the supermax maximum security facility. The latest action extends that additional pay to all eligible staff at the complex.
In addition to granting the 10% retention bonuses, which is the maximum BOP can offer, the agency agreed to submit a request to OPM for approval to pay 25% retention bonuses to all officers and staff. U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper of Colorado also have asked BOP and OPM to support the additional pay.
“We thank the agency for listening to our concerns and taking action to help address the dangerous understaffing we are seeing at the prison,” AFGE Local 1169 President John Butkovich said.