A union representing about 50 Montana Women’s Prison workers has voted to authorize a strike to resolve a dispute over an expired contract.
Among the union members are correctional officers and correctional counselor employees who serve the prison’s inmate population.
The employees’ contract expired July 1, 2011, but they have continued to work under terms of the old contract until a new one is negotiated and voted on.
The proposal by members of the Montana Federation of Women’s Prison Employees passed Dec. 3 authorizing the negotiation team to strike.
The state of Montana and the federation began mediation last summer, but haven’t been able to reach an agreement.
“The authorization of strike is used as a negotiation tool,” said Joseph Dompier, the federation’s public affairs officer and MWP correctional officer. “We really don’t want to go on strike, but we also want fair working conditions.”
Dompier said the federation submitted a proposal to the state in December that includes a salary increase based on a 2010 market rate. He said the state hasn’t responded.
The current contract's salary is based on a 2006 market rate, Dompier said.
“It’s becoming really hard to employ trained employees when they can just go down to the county jail and make much more,” he said. “If the (state) wants to recruit and retain staff, this needs to be addressed.”
“There are a lot of issues with the local contract and at the legislator level,” Dompier said.
Union members are represented by MEA-MFT, AFL-CIO.