AFSCME Council 18

NM Corrections Officers Fought For a Raise - Why are half of them about to get burned?


New Mexico may continue to lose experienced Correctional Officers because of the State Personnel Office’s (SPO) flawed implementation of the Corrections department compensation overhaul plan.
 
 
The Corrections Department deserves a hearty pat on the back for accomplishing the miracle of improving pay for new recruits and more recent hires during a disastrous budget year. Retaining those newer hires must be a top priority for healing NM Corrections.

However, if security is the number one priority, then SPO has failed in part to abide by the intent of language in the state budget by not also raising the pay of New Mexico’s dedicated career correctional officers.
 

Specifically looking at page 10 of the 3/31/16 Corrections Occupational Pay Line, the plan identifies a cost of $3.5 million to bring 557 Corrections Officers up to the new minimum pay of 34K/yr.
 


 

$400K has been allocated to improve salaries for higher level management. AFSCME members are expressing their opinion that those positions are not truly hard to recruit or retain and not an appropriate use of the department’s limited budget resources.
 
 
Nowhere in the plan does it address the remaining 489 COs currently on the job who are theoretically making above minimum, but possibly well below the new midpoint.
 
CO’s who lobbied hardest for the funding for raises are the very one who will be left out under this current plan.

“These are the same officers who were tasked to do more with less in recent years,” said Rob Trombley, AFSCME Public Safety Coordinator. “The same officers who went above an beyond and kept the prisons safe during a time when chronic vacancies exposed the officers to a greater threat of violence, escapes, and risk of harm to themselves, the public, and inmates.”
 
During his presentation at the May 11, 2016 Legislative Finance Committee meeting in Santa Fe, Justin Najaka, Director of State Personnel Office, acknowledged that wage compaction between newer COs and career COs is an issue that his office would be addressing with future requests for the fiscal year 2018 budget.
 
Senator Carlos R. Cisneros (D-Questa) applauded the action by SPO to raise the compensation for the lowest paid at corrections, but also cautioned that the plan will result in some negative consequences due to mid-level paid employees who will see no raise whatsoever.
 





Pg 126, Line 5 of the state budget [HERE: FY2017 Budget HB2] specifically addresses the purpose of the moneys to improve retention among custody staff. Lines 4 and 5 make it abundantly clear that a top priority of the $4.5 million was to reduce compaction. The reality of SPOs plan will see compaction made worse this year.


 
 
 
 


New Mexico Corrections Department officials told AFSCME today that their intention is to return to the legislature and request further funding to raise up career employees left behind by this first phase implementation.
 

In many cases, this newly launched plan will lift newer employees to a pay level equal to far more experienced officers who they're working alongside.
 

It appears that SPO may be about to miss the mark once again in a move that will cause divisiveness and another crisis in morale as New Mexico’s most senior experienced officers are passed over for a pay adjustment that reflects their experience.
 

 

Here’s the entire 13 page NMCD compensation plan from SPO. [download PDF: SPO CORRECTION Compensation Overhaul]

It is 100% true that SPO and NMCD garnered union support and advocacy for the compensation overhaul plan at NMCD by expressly informing the union that more senior corrections officers would realize a pay increase as a component of the overhaul plan.
 

 



 
Cabinet Secretary Gregg Marcantel appeared before the legislature in early 2016 to lobby for the increased funding for NMCD. The Secretary said at the time, “...for the love of god” he needed this funding to avoid a catastrophic failure within the system.

AFSCME appreciates the essential task to raise wages for our newest and incoming Correctional Officers immediately. However, SPOs choice to include upper level management in the plan to boost salaries and avoid altogether long serving COs below midpoint is negligent.

The specter of leaving 489 dedicated COs behind, who deserve and have earned a competitive pay raise, should scare the hell out of anyone who has been paying attention to the realities within our crowded, understaffed, and under-maintained prisons.


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