Posted: Jan 26, 2013 8:52 AM
BILLINGS - Union workers at the Montana Women's Prison here in Billings have authorized a possible strike if a new contract cannot be reached.
According to Joseph Dompier, Public Affairs Officer, on Dec. 3rd, members of the Montana Federation of Women's Prison employees passed a proposal to authenticate a strike if it sees fit.
"We've continued that contract on good faith while we continue to negotiate a new contract that is set to expire this June."
The federation has about 50 members that consist of Correctional Officers and correctional counselor employees who've received more duties, but no increase in wages.
Both sides negotiated summer 2012 but have not met over the issues since.
"The sooner we start communicating again, the better off it can be," said Dompier.
The Federation submitted a packaged proposal to the state in December but the state has yet to respond.
Proposed in the package - higher pay, local issues, and better working conditions for staff.
Dompier could only comment on a few issues within the contract negotiations, "First and fore most we're talking the safety of the community here right in downtown Billings. The biggest factor we've got here is your correctional officer at the women's prison is starting at 12.57 an hour but your detention officer, with somewhat the same duties, is starting off over 15 dollars an hour so we're trying to close that gap."
Dompier did not speculate when a possible strike might occur, which will depend on the negotiation team and response from the state. The union's last contract expired back on July 1st, 2011 and each contract is on a two year cycle.
"We don't want to strike, we love our jobs, but we want fair working conditions," said Dompier.