Saturday, August 29, 2009

TDCJ dips into line staff raises for higher supervisor pay

There's little doubt the Texas Legislature primarily intended upcoming pay raises for Texas prison guards primarily for the rank and file. That was clear both before and during the time the Lege was in session. But now Mike Ward at the Statesman reports TDCJ is shifting that money around to give larger raises to supervisors ("Prison guards say pay raise not as much as promised," Aug. 29):
Four months ago, with the state budget feeling the pinch of a diving economy, Texas' 24,000 correctional officers cheered the news that the Legislature had given them a 3.5 percent pay raise, effective this fall.

By Friday, that thrill was fading: Prison officials acknowledged correctional officers will get slightly less — 3.35 percent — while their bosses will get more — for some, raises of more than 8 percent.

The difference in the size of the raises for correctional officers amounts to about $51 a year in most cases. But to some of Texas' prison employees, who are among the lowest paid in the United States, the change represents a broken promise — in a system where such things can sometimes turn into nettlesome problems for administrators.

Dozens of correctional officers are reportedly filing grievances on the issue.

"You talk about a morale buster — this is it," said Brian Olsen, executive director of a Huntsville union that represents about 5,000 correctional officers in Texas. "It's crazy to me that they'd take any percentage away from the officers, the lowest paid, so they can pay the supervisors more."
Maybe this is partly happening because TDCJ officials aren't feeling the same staffing pressure they were this time a year ago, when they first proposed 20% raises for the next biennium to the Legislature. When the session began in January, TDCJ was more than 3,000 guards short statewide, as it had been chronically for a number of years. But front-end hiring bonuses and a tanking economy combined (with somewhat surprising rapidity) to fill up a couple of thousand of those empty slots by mid-year.

Now, the agency likely doesn't see pay hikes as being quite so critical to solving an immediate understaffing crisis. Their priorities have changed since they asked for the money, in other words.

TDCJ says they're following a legislative mandate by shifting the raises to supervisors, while House Corrections Committee Chairman Jim McReynolds told Ward, ""For crying out loud, this was never the intent of the Legislature ... We said we wanted a 3.5 percent increase for each year, and that's what we meant ... To have supervisors getting a lot more like this was never on our radar screen."

I don't know who is correct on the legalities in this he-said/she-said situation. (MORE: According to a commenter, "
The State Auditors Office's changed the schedule B job classifications and salaries, which is contained in the budget [SB 1] and passed by the legislature. TDCJ, like other state agencies, can not pay less than the minimum on the new schedule, which increased the supervisors' pay.") Certainly McReynolds is right, though, that larger pay hikes for supervisors were never part of the public debate nor any presentation I'm aware of by TDCJ to the Lege.

Given the rotten economy and competing financial obligations, it's true as TDCJ spokeswoman Michelle Lyons said that prison staff were lucky to receive the raises they got. But it appears agency leaders will fritter away any morale benefits from the raises by this petty dipping into the line staff's pockets. From a symbolic perspective, this will be a
disappointing and frustrating outcome for workers, made more poignant because TDCJ administrators spent two years touting line staff's needs while begging for money at every turn up at the capitol.

14 comments:

Red Leatherman said...

As Gomer would say, surprise surprise surprise.
I'm not.

Anonymous said...

The State Auditors Office's changed the schedule B job classifications and salaries, which is contained in the budget (SB 1) and passed by the legislature. TDCJ, like other state agencies, can not pay less than the minimum on the new schedule, which increased the supervisors' pay.

Anonymous said...

Grits gets all his exercise by jumping to conclusions.

BB said...

Henson,
You are wrong again. You are also part of the problem in this debate as opposed to being part of the solution. It is was the right time for the SAO to adjust these job classifications which resulted in these salary increases for supervisory personnel. There is no substitute for effective supervision. In recent years, qualified employees would not take advantage of promotional opportunities simply because the additional compensation was minimal while the increase in responsibilities were great. One could make more as a Sergeant or as a member of the line staff when you calculate base salary with the additional overtime. It was not worth it to volunteer to be in an exempt status.
This is a good thing. Most would agree that effective, respectable supervision is worth far more than what will be lost by anyone not receiving 4 or 5 dollars a month more due to these salary adjustments. It only becomes a negative symbolic issue when it perpetuated as such by uninformed media reporters, bloggers and malicious politicians.
Let's stop playing games and work together for the common good.

BB

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Y'all, I got my information from Mike Ward, and 3:45 came forward and supplied more than was in his report (which I added into the text, btw - thanks for sharing).

However, if it's true that dozens of guards have filed grievances, then clearly that information wasn't conveyed constructively to staff and that's not my fault. I said in the text, I couldn't tell from the story whose legal interpretation was correct, I just know that nobody ever mentioned this, ever, before now when the raises were discussed. I stand by that, though if the information about the State Auditor's office is correct I can also be easily convinced it's required by SB 1.

Talk about jumping to conclusions - there are a LOT of blog commenters out there who assume they know my (always evil) motives for every sentence, clause, jot and tittle written here. Often though, as here, I'm giving you all the information I have and the questions you raise are ones not addressed simply because I don't have the answers.

Texas Maverick said...

Not sure this applies to this story but from 1st hand the shortage of personnel is still a problem and I'm sure as word circulates about the perceived renege on the 3.5%, hiring will suffer. When there is not enough staff (comp time, vacation, sick, etc.) units go into lock-down. Nice way to run an enterprise. 3.5% is 3.5% and the SAO reclassification should not effect. Sounds to me like the Leg. didn't do their homework.

Anonymous said...

The link to the SAO report dated October 08; http://www.sao.state.tx.us/reports/main/09-701.pdf

SB1 can be found on the LBB website (look at the conference committee report); state employee salaries are in article 9.

sunray's wench said...

$51 a year? Perhaps if people spoke less in percentages and more in real terms, it would all be easier for everyone to understand and people would not get such nasty shocks.

Anonymous said...

BB: What leads you to believe a pay raise to supervisors leads to more "effective supervision?" My experience (state employee) leads me to believe there's just more of "yes sir, whatever you want sir" status quo.

BB said...

9:15

Very good point. One does not in itself cause the other, but fair and equitable compensation is a start. This is at least one variable necessary for labor quality. The significant increases will inevitably attract more people allowing management to choose supervisors form a larger pool of qualified women and men. Excellent move for the purposes of long term growth and organizational stability.

Henson,

Don't get defensive. Absorbing information you provide is the highligh of my day! I agree this could have been prevented with strategic communication, but this is not a case where TDCJ leadership needs to be taken to the woodshed for one of your corporal punishment experiences! This is a good thing!

BB

Pirate Rothbard said...

This is exactly one of the reasons I would support expanding private prisons. Let the market decide what to pay line managers or supervisors.

laurayde said...

You know HB1711 was passed which states the following:
Sec. 501.099. FAMILY UNITY AND PARTICIPATION. (a) The department shall adopt and implement policies that encourage family unity while an offender is confined and family participation in an offender's post-release or post-discharge transition to the community. In adopting the policies, the department shall consider the impact of department telephone, mail, and visitation policies on the ability of an offender's child to maintain ongoing contact with the offender.
(b) The department, when determining in which correctional facility to house an offender, shall consider the best interest of the offender's family and, if possible, house the offender in, or in proximity to, the county in which the offender's family resides. To take affect no later than January 2010 per State legislator Sylvester Turner. So I jumped on this because my husband is from Harris county who is now in Tulia,TX which is an 18 hour round trip, well wouldnt you know the answer I received it was the following from a lady at the Tulia unit, yes your right, its the law but due to funding he will not be moving? What does funding have to do with it? Where is the funding for the raises coming from? I am new to this but I know what I am talking about and if anybody is willing to take this furhter please let me know. WE need to bring our husbands, fathers, sons, brothers, daughter, wives, sisters, mothers closer to us. Let unite and do something. Funding should have no affect on bringing our family members home based on the law!

laurayde said...

and this is whats on the TDCJ website-"Despite an economic downturn that negatively impacted state revenues, the Texas Legislature has given most TDCJ employees an average pay raise of about 3.5 percent effective September 1, 2009, and another salary increase of 3.5 percent effective September 1, 2010. Uniformed security personnel, TDCJ employees assigned to units whose primary mission is providing and supporting direct offender operations, and parole officers will receive the salary increases taking effect September 2009 and September 2010. The salary increase in the first year of the biennium may be slightly more or less than 3.5 percent for some positions

They are getting there raise but is anybody being accountable and upholding the law based on HB1711?

Anonymous said...

LMAO...guys this is Texas, they never do what they say they're going to do, except sentence people to excessive jail time. Once again the Perryisms have struck...we really shouldn't be surprised.