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DOC reaches new contract with prison officers

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The Montana Department of Corrections in Helena.

The Montana Department of Corrections in Helena.

State corrections officials and the employees union at Montana State Prison have reached a new contract, the Montana Department of Corrections announced Thursday. 

The new agreement includes a $2 per hour raise for correctional officers at the state prison outside of Deer Lodge. It also implements changes to the employee grievance process, allowing for "more efficient resolution" of grievances, the state said. 

“We are pleased to provide a well-deserved pay increase to our correctional officers at MSP,” DOC Director Brian Gootkin said in a press release Thursday. 

Union negotiations had been ongoing since June 2021. After two months without resolution, the Federation of Montana State Prison Employees Local 4700 announced it had voted 60-0 to engage in concerted activity, a step toward a potential strike, to address what the union called inadequate and unsafe working conditions. 

Negotiations continued after the vote and the strike never came, but prison officials in January told a legislative oversight committee maintaining staffing levels has been difficult when correctional officers can transfer to local jails in greater-population counties to get higher pay. 

The previous starting wage for a corrections officer was $16.46, according to prison officials who presented information to lawmakers in January.

“Beyond this recognition of the hard work of our correctional officers, we hope this raise will make us more competitive in terms of recruitment and retention of workers for these crucial public safety jobs," Gootkin said.

The president of the Local 4700 was not available for comment Thursday.

Montana State News Bureau

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