Pay problems at one Southern Illinois jail

Pay problems at one Southern Illinois jail
By; Carly O'Keefe
Ullin, IL - Corrections officers at Tri-County Justice and Detention Center in southern Illinois demand a raise after four years without one.
The Tri-County jail serves Union, Pulaski and Alexander Counties. Corrections employees say they've gone too long without a raise. According to arbitrators with the International Labor Union of North America Local 773, the company contracted to operate the jail has offered workers $.25 per hour raise. Correction workers currently earn $8.85 per hour and they say a $.25 raise is not enough.
"I've been working here seven years and six months," said Tri-County corrections officer Peggy Keith. "I started at $8 per hour, and now we make $8.85, that's it."
The Geo Group is the third management company Keith has worked under in her years as a guard at the Tri-County jail. According to her, none of those companies have paid its workers what they feel they're worth.
"Now they're going to tell us if we won't take this contract we're gonna close. Well go ahead, we can't take it anymore," said Keith.
"The company has shown us a copy of their contract with Pulaski County," said Local 773 Union Representative Bill Stark. "All the company needs to do is give a 120 notice and they can vacate the premise."
As it stands now, Geo Group and Tri-County employees are at a stalemate. Union officials say Geo won't offer more, workers won't accept less.
"We started negotiations in February," said Stark. "Since then we've had two meetings. There's been no movement whatsoever. They won't budge."
If neither the company nor its employees compromise, the disagreement could cause problems for the three counties the facility serves.
"I hope we can get something out over there so we can keep the jail running," said Pulaski County Sheriff Randy Kern. "If they don't work together we probably won't have it. But if they can get things squared away, we can keep this jail open. That way we can keep prisoners there, so everybody can make money."
But employees say they're not willing to give in just so Geo Group can make money.
"A $1 raise would help us tremendously. That's better than $.25," said Keith.
A spokesman for Geo Group says because negotiations are ongoing, the company cannot comment on the offer on the table or any future plans for the Tri-County facility.
If Tri-County employees receive a $1 raise that brings them to $9.85 an hour, which is still below what most starting corrections officers make per hour in other Heartland jails.
Heartland Jails Starting Pay

Heartland Jails

Starting Pay

Tri-County

$8.85

Franklin County

$10.64

Jefferson County

$12.61

Jackson County

$13.99

Tri-County workers plan to hold an informational picket early next week.