by Guy Page
A Day of Action is planned by the state employees’ union to protest required 12 hour, five-day-a-week shifts at a state prison in Springfield, according to the July 2 Vermont State Employees Association newsletter.
At the Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield, a new employee schedule has been mandated in an attempt to address chronic understaffing. The “emergency” staffing change switches employees from five 8-hour shifts a week—sometimes with mandatory overtime—to five 12-hour shifts.
Corrections employees are receiving a 3% wage increase on July 1. But the toll of increasing the workload by 50% takes a toll on corrections staff.
“These people are missing anniversaries, camping trips, children’s birthdays, anniversaries – all of these things. And that’s hard – on a young officer that’s really difficult,” explained Matt Engels, a correctional facility shift supervisor.
In a news report, Vermont State Employees Assocation Executive Director Steve Howard labeled the decision “cruel and inhumane.”
“These men and women are human beings, and they haven’t seen their spouse, they haven’t seen their children,” said Howard. “You can only ask a human being to do so much before they break.” He adds, “I think the public needs to know that the corrections system is crumbling because (politicians) will not make the kind of investments that need to be made to stabilize the system.”
Later in the week, FOX44 aired a news story about the new schedule at Southern State to address the staffing crisis. Howard is quoted again in the FOX44 story labeling the decision cruel and inhumane, adding, “It’s very frustrating for our members. It’s heartbreaking to listen to them. They are exhausted, their families are exhausted, and they are hearing from inmates that the inmates are concerned they won’t be able to be protected from the staff or the exhaustion from the staff, something bad is going to happen.”
VSEA has called for a “Day of Action” July 13 to bring attention to the staffing crisis. The July 2 newsletter does not provide specifics about the actions planned. Vermont Daily Chronicle has contacted VSEA President Steve Howard for more information.
Content from the July 2 VSEA newsletter was included in this news report.
Categories: State Government