Friday, March 23, 2012

AFSCME Council 24 Press Release

March 23, 2012
Contact: Marty Beil

Walker Administration Stonewalls Correctional Staff Safety Concerns

When Gov. Scott Walker “dropped the bomb” on public employee collective bargaining rights, he said his administrationwould still respect the voice of workers, even if those workers no longer had clearly defined rights and work rules refined through years of good faith negotiations.

Like most of what Walker says, his words don’t match reality.

In the Department of Corrections, Walker’s top bureaucrats are pointedly ignoring concerns raised by employees about deteriorating workplace safety and soaring staff vacancies.

On Feb. 24, leaders elected by front-line workers from every state correctional institution sent a letter by certified mail to DOC Secretary Gary Hamblin requesting a meeting to discuss serious problems such as assaults on staff and soaring vacancies.

The Department has not responded to the letter, or to follow-up emails.

“This administration has been absolutely non-responsive to serious concerns raised by workers,” said Marty Beil, executive director of the Wisconsin State Employees Union, AFSCME Council 24.

“By blowing up work rules and local agreements that ensured smooth operations, they’ve created chaos and confusion. Worse, they obviously have zero interest in finding workable solutions to the problems they’re creating,” Beil said.

The resulting low morale has led to vacancy rate of more than 5% in the department, which is driving up overtime costs to record levels. Last week, the Department had to request additional funding for overtime from the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance.

The letter from 19 WSEU Local Presidents was just one of many efforts DOC employees have made to turn around a rapidly deteriorating situation. The efforts are consistently met with stonewalling and indifference from above, Beil said.

“As with its failed legislative strategy, this administration only wants to impose its radical agenda without listening to anybody who hasn’t been gulping their Kool-Aid,” he said.

“In this case, they are imposing one-size-fits-all ideology on a system full of complexity and localized variables. It doesn’t work. But they aren’t interested in what works. Their only interest is pushing an extreme political agenda. You would hope that some things would be above politics, like the safety of people who puttheir lives on the line for us every day. Sadly, nothing is above politics on Walker’s watch,” Beil said.


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