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State of Nebraska increases pay for critical workers, including prison employees
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State of Nebraska increases pay for critical workers, including prison employees

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State government has reached a labor agreement that will provide an additional $47 million in compensation to more than 7,500 state of Nebraska employees, with substantial increases targeted to workers at the Department of Correctional Services, as well as workers at other 24/7 state facilities.

"This agreement is an aggressive move on the part of the state to bring our compensation to a competitive level and ensure the continuity of critical services at our 24/7 facilities," Chief Human Resources Officer Jason Jackson said Friday. 

Gov. Pete Ricketts said Nebraska is experiencing low unemployment along with "high inflation due to the policies in Washington."

"We have a talented team in state government and their skills are in demand in this tight labor market," the governor said.

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The new agreement was described as the largest mid-biennium contract adjustment in Nebraska history. 

"The agreement represents a substantial increase in pay for our members working within 24/7 facilities and across state government," said Justin Hubly, executive director of the Nebraska Association of Public Employees

Employees at 24/7 facilities who are covered under the labor contract will receive a $3 per hour pay increase. Beginning Nov. 1, there will be a 20% pay increase for classifications of workers identified as high-demand and a 30% bump for health care classifications identified as critical.

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The agreement also increases overtime pay at 24/7 facilities and provides for an additional 2% cost-of-living adjustment that will occur July 1, 2022.

Along with Corrections, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Veterans Affairs also operate 24/7 facilities.

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"Negotiating competitive wages has been a focus for our union, and this agreement goes a long way toward achieving our shared goals of retaining and recruiting the very best talent to serve our fellow Nebraskans," Hubly said.

"NAPE appreciates Gov. Ricketts and his team for meeting us at the table and working collaboratively to make immediate improvements in the lives of our members." 

Friday's announcement comes on the heels of growing concerns about the ability of the Department of Correctional Services to be able to adequately staff state prisons.

The tentative deal does not include employees represented by FOP Lodge 88, which represents state corrections security staff. Those negotiations are ongoing, according to Ricketts' spokesperson, Taylor Gage.

The FOP has repeatedly called for higher, more competitive salaries for its members — a request repeated last month in the wake of an inspector general report that concluded: “A system which was already struggling to recruit and retain staff is now grappling with a mass exodus.”

Gage said at the time that the department was preparing to begin negotiations with FOP to address the staffing problems.

“The state has made significant increases to corrections officer compensation in recent years, and we recognize more needs to be done. We are preparing to sit down with FOP to negotiate on additional steps we can take to help ensure we recruit and retain the workforce we need," Gage told the World-Herald in September.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or dwalton@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSdon.

The Omaha World-Herald contributed to this story.

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