Corrections officers in Ohio county win another raise amid continued staffing woes
New COs will start off earning $25 an hour this year, and up to $26.50 per hour by 2025, per the terms of a new bargaining agreement with Cuyahoga County
By Kaitlin Durbin
CLEVELAND, Ohio — For the sixth time in five years, corrections officers who work in the Cuyahoga County jail will receive higher wages in yet another bid to attract and retain staffing.
New officers will now start off earning $25 an hour this year, and up to $26.50 per hour by 2025, per the terms of a new bargaining agreement with the county. That is about a $1 raise over current pay for starting officers and an increase of more than $10 over what they were making just five years ago, in 2018.
Officers with more than three years of experience will earn up to $32.36 per hour over the same period, “to remain competitive with other public employees performing comparable work and due to the need to hire and retain corrections officers,” a copy of the agreement shows.
The raises are retroactive to January 1 of this year.
Officers also will receive a one-time $500 bonus, and an additional $300 for each month they maintain perfect attendance, meaning no tardies or absences.
Those were the terms overwhelmingly approved last week by the Ohio Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the union that represents the officers. Attorney Adam Chaloupka said members voted 466 to 22 to adopt the pay increase, among other changes.
County Council is expected to ratify the terms at its June 6 meeting, he said.
Chaloupka called the deal “a huge win” and hoped that it will bring some relief by helping to attract new hires and better retain existing staff. He hopes that will end a cycle of high turnover that forces remaining officers to work mandatory overtime and watch over more inmates than they feel is safe.
Officers recently cited unsafe working conditions, long hours, mismanagement and disrespect from supervisors among their reasons for quitting, exit interviews obtained by cleveland.com previously found.
Management changes are already underway, with Cuyahoga County Executive Chris Ronayne recently appointing Harold Pretel to take over as sheriff. He must yet be confirmed by County Council.
Ronayne and council are also working on a plan to build a new jail, which is expected to improve conditions for staff and inmates alike.
But the union hopes the new pay rates might also make the job more appealing in the meantime. Chaloupka says they keep Cuyahoga corrections officers on pace with those working in Lake County and Geauga County, which are the highest paid officers in the state.
“This is the greatest contract that the OPBA has ever negotiated,” Chaloupka said. “The starting rate should bring people in, and, within three years, the top-out rate and all those benefits should retain them.”
The county currently employs 605 corrections officers, but has 120 vacancies, according to staffing records.
Cleveland.com reached out to the county for comment. A spokesperson declined until the contract goes before council for approval.
Other changes in the bargaining agreement include:
- Increasing maximum sick leave to 150 hours per year and expanding stress leave after major incidents
- A $500 annual uniform maintenance allowance
- $10 per shift worked for transportation or parking reimbursement
- Ensuring employees are paid when they work through lunch, correcting a problem from last year that resulted in a $75,000 settlement
- Requiring employees to participate in random drug and alcohol testing
- Giving existing officers first choice, by seniority, to transfer to any new jail facility that is built before the county can hire new
- Preventing employees from being reassigned as a form of discipline, including if under investigation, except in limited circumstances
- Allowing employees to review video in critical incidents before they’re disciplined
- Enforcing mandatory overtime by making missed shifts subject to discipline