DOVER, Del. — Delaware’s correctional officers will see their pay increase by about $5,000 next year under a collective bargaining agreement with the labor union representing prison guards, officials said Tuesday.
Under the agreement, starting pay would increase from about $35,000 in the current fiscal year, which includes $3,120 in hazardous duty pay, to $40,000 in the fiscal year starting July 1.
Correctional officers would see another pay in fiscal 2019, with starting pay increasing to $43,000.
The proposal includes a 1.5 percent increase correctional officers were expecting under a previous round of collective bargaining.
Officials hope the pay increase, and the creation of a labor-management committee within the Department of Correction, will help in recruiting and retaining correctional officers. They also said it could help reduce the Department of Correction’s reliance on the use of mandatory overtime to meet minimum staffing levels, which can negatively affect staff morale and readiness.
There are currently about 180 vacancies within the ranks of Delaware’s prison guards.
“This is a tremendous first step in the right direction. … It’s a significant raise for all correctional officers,” said Geoff Klopp, president of the Correctional Officers Association of Delaware.
The proposal, which would cost $16 million in the first year and $10 million in second year, would affect about 1,500 correctional officers. Funding depends on approval by state lawmakers, who are still trying to hammer out a mix of spending cuts and tax increases to balance the budget for the new fiscal year.
State budget director Mike Jackson said leaders of the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee were aware of the agreement, and that he expects lawmakers to support it.
“It would be nontraditional for them not to honor a collective bargaining agreement,” he added.
The proposal is the latest in a series of steps taken by Gov. John Carney’s administration to address prison working conditions after a February inmate uprising at Delaware’s maximum security prison in Smyrna, during which four workers were taken hostage and a correctional officer was killed.
Carney’s other proposals include appointing a temporary special assistant at DOC to spearhead reform efforts; funding 50 more correctional officer positions at the Smyrna prison; and spending $2 million for surveillance cameras at the Smyrna prison.
Meanwhile, the criminal investigation into the February uprising continues.
“I would have expected that that investigation would be finished by now,” Carney said, adding that his office has been communicating with the attorney general’s office.
“My hope is that it will be done as soon as possible,” he said.