The union for Fresno County corrections officers intends to strike at the end of the month because of what they say are unsafe and understaffed working conditions.
The Fresno County Public Safety Association represents around 1,200 employees, including correctional officers employed by the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office. In a news release, the union compared the salaries of correctional officers to sheriff’s deputies, noting deputies have received raises much higher than correctional officers.
Union officials said the strike is planned for May 23.
“The exhaustive working conditions within the corrections classifications and the simple fact that it has become virtually impossible to recruit and retain qualified staff has resulted in unsafe and understaffed working conditions,” union officials said in the news release.
County officials said the union rejected its last and best offer after nine meetings of negotiations and three state mediation sessions in March. County officials said they consider the strike illegal and would seek an injunction so essential services aren’t interrupted.
“The sheriff’s office has a plan to effectively respond to this job action,” Fresno County’s Administrative Officer Paul Nerland said in a statement. “In the event of a strike, jail facilities will continue to prioritize and ensure the safety of the public, staff, and inmates. The county’s plan is not to release inmates prematurely as a result of this temporary job action, and impact to jail operations will be minimal, if any.”
The union said working in the jail, or juvenile corrections has become increasingly more dangerous since the passage of Proposition 47 and AB109, which shifted many inmates from state prisons to county jails and reclassified some crimes from felonies to misdemeanors.
The union began negotiations with the county in 2021. The county’s final proposal included an 11% raise, increases to health insurance contributions, 7.5% premium pay for retention, a one-time $1,500 pandemic payment, and a $500 payment for correctional officers who work in congregate settings.
The union rejected the proposal, saying the increases wouldn’t go into effect until 2023 and weren’t enough to keep up with inflation. Additionally, the health care improvements would only apply to under 75 of 1,000 union members.
Union officials said in the news release that the county’s proposal was not equitable.
“The County needs to provide equity adjustments to bring our salary in line with what inflation has done since 2010,” union officials said.
The county reminded union members they have the right not to strike. If employees do participate in the strike, they won’t earn regular pay and can’t use their sick or vacation time.
County officials said they hope to reach an agreement with the union “and avoid the disharmony resulting from a strike.”
The sheriff declined to comment for this story other than to say through a spokesperson that sheriff’s officials hope to avoid a strike.
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