My brothers and sisters in the Department of Correction, TSEA has heard your overwhelming concerns arising from recent changes within your department and are working diligently to help fix the problems.
First and foremost, I want to say TSEA considers the safety of our state employees our first priority, and we wanted to update you on our progress.
No one in the state has a tougher job than you, and we are all safer because of your quality work. Thank you for assuming this important role for Tennessee. We appreciate the time you sacrifice with your families so that our families can feel safer in their communities.
We are well aware that many officers have recently resigned their positions, creating a huge shortage in employee numbers. While there has always been high turnover for these particular positions, the current staffing levels are alarming.
During our July 30 meeting with your commissioner, we discussed the following:
- The impact of the 28 day schedule, suggesting alternate plans such as a 14 day schedule
- Ways the department could expedite recruitment and training of new hires
- TDOC making additional pay increases for CO’s a highest priority
- Finding ways to get overtime pay in your hand’s quicker
- The continued importance of officer safety and equipment functionality
- We thanked him for directing policy that prevents back-to-back double shifts, for the 5% department-funded pay raise, and for making overtime payable through the end of the year in CASH as opposed to flexing off time
- Ideas on how to recruit officers more effectively
We feel the department listened to our concerns about safety and staffing issues. We talked about the groups being sent from one prison to another to cover shifts. Commissioner Schofield committed to provide traveling employees with housing, meal stipends, and premium pay for those hours. He committed to us that with the exception of the Strike Team, participation would always be voluntary and asked TSEA to make him aware of anyone being forced to travel.
We have also had enough inquiries from the Legislators about the prisons in their districts that the Senate has already started gathering information and having conference calls, and will hold an Investigative hearing this Thursday. The House of Representatives is holding a hearing Monday. We will be there to observe and testify if asked. We have heard from many elected officials and your issues are important to them.
TSEA just launched on our website www.tseaonline.org a form for you to convey your TDOC worksite issues to TSEA. CLICK HERE to access that form. These issues will be shared with your department, but your name will be kept anonymous. We ask for your name only so we can verify you’re a member, and to be able to follow up for needed clarification.
Please remember, these problems in your department didn’t happen overnight. Nor can they be fixed overnight. I want you to know, no one is working harder for you than TSEA to bring your concerns to light and insist on better outcomes. We are having good dialogue with your department and will continue to convey all safety and staffing concerns.
So please convey your needs, we want to be responsive. Please also continue to support your department the best you can during this transition. Be dependable, show up for your shifts and hang in there. Help is on the way.
We will continue to monitor progress on all of these issues. By working with TDOC and your elected officials, we will continue to be a catalyst for change.
I believe that no one can do a better job than Tennessee’s workforce and I am praying for you and your families during these tough times. Thanks for all you do.