The city of Lexington and corrections officers have reached a four-year bargaining agreement that includes an average raise of 2.6 percent for many officers and a substantial pay increase for starting corrections officers.
The agreement, which was discussed Tuesday during an Urban County Council work session, was narrowly ratified by a 92-90 vote of the Fraternal Order of Police Town Branch Lodge 83, which represents corrections officers and sergeants. Captains and lieutenants are represented by a different bargaining unit. The Urban County Council will give a final vote to the new contract in coming weeks.
Some pay increases were in the double digits while others were single-digit increases, depending on the pay grade of the officers.
The raises could help the jail attract and keep corrections officers, city officials said. Turnover has been a problem for years. Retention of corrections officers is a problem across the country, said Rodney Ballard, director of the Fayette County Detention Center.
For recruits, pay will move from the current starting salary of $30,635 to $32,000. Once recruits complete the 11-week training course, their pay will increase to $34,234 a year.
If approved by the council, the salary increases probably will take effect Dec. 1, and a second pay raise will take place in March, said Finance Commissioner Bill O'Mara.
In addition to raising salaries, the bargaining agreement tightens sick-leave policies and gives cash bonuses to employees at the end of the year who do not use sick leave or use limited sick days. The agreement also does away with emergency leave — a type of non-sick leave that allowed a corrections officer to call in an absence less than 24 hours in advance. When officers call in sick, that means other officers often are required to stay and work overtime, driving up costs.
Under the agreement, officers will receive more for a uniform allowance — from $400 a year to $500. Officers who work second shift will get an additional increase of $1 an hour. Under the previous contract, second-shift workers got 50 cents an hour more.
Steve Parker, president of the union, said the main concerns of corrections officers were the change in the sick-leave policy, and that certain pay grades got larger pay increases than others.
Parker said the city's detention facility — which has more than 1,000 inmates, has a difficult time keeping people for more than five years. To keep people, those pay raises had to be across the board.
"We have many people who have young families, and they need to make a living," Parker said.
Ballard said the state recently increased its starting salary for state corrections officers by 13 percent. The city was losing its corrections officers to state or federal agencies. Under the new contract, the city's starting salary for recruits will be much higher than the state's current starting salary, which is about $23,000.
If approved by the council, the total increase for the salary and other increases will cost the city a little more than $786,000 for the remaining seven months of the fiscal year. The contract changes will cost the city a little more than $1.5 million in additional costs for the next four years, O'Mara said.
O'Mara told the council Tuesday that because the city knew the contract negotiations were ongoing, it budgeted for the salary increases for the current fiscal year. The city will not need to amend the current budget if the council ratifies the contract.