The head of Wisconsin’s largest state employees union says he’s worried about the safety of staff in state prisons and other potentially dangerous facilities.
State Employee Union executive director Marty Beil says concerns about a pay freeze and new overtime restrictions approved earlier this week have resulted in a spike in retirements across state agencies. He says they appear to be up nearly 75-percent over last year.
Beil says they are driven not only by financial concerns, but also worries about the uncertainty of those jobs in the future.
Beil says it’s causing major concerns in locations such as state prisons and mental health facilities, where new overtime rules mean extra hours and shifts are no longer determined based on seniority. He says that could result in shifts dominated by rookies.
The rules no longer require supervisors to consider the need to have experienced staff on hand to handle problems that could come up from inmates or patients.
Beil believes staffing problems contributed to two recent attacks on corrections officers in Dodge County, where he says the state is having trouble hiring new corrections officers to replace retired workers.
The Department of Corrections says those units were fully staffed at the time of those incidents.
Still, Beil says inmates know what’s going on and it could put workers at even greater risk in the future. Beil told a legislative panel earlier this week that, if that happens, Republican lawmakers who supported changes to collective bargaining and the governor will be held accountable for taking away workplace protections.
AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (1:10)