State of Ohio paying corrections officers for hazard pay during pandemic, but emergency pay is a different issue

Prison Guards and hazardous pay, May 9, 2020

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Ohio Corrections Officers told 19 News they have not been paid the emergency pay they are owed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A spokesperson for the State’s Department of Administrative Services said the eight dollar more per hour in their contract is only in specific cases.

The additional emergency pay specifically addressed disparity in who “is” and “isn’t” working.

The state said the emergency pay would only be paid out if other workers were told they did not have to work during an emergency, but Corrections Officers did.

According to several sources, the union representing corrections officers in Ohio’s prisons have filed a grievance was filed with the state, and told 19 News the matter is in arbitration.

The state has not confirmed that information at this time.

The State spokesperson said Ohio’s Corrections Officers at all 32 facilities are receiving hazard pay – per the order of the Director of Prisons.

The state makes it clear that hazard pay is different than emergency pay.

When it comes to hazard pay the amount the officer receives is based on the status of the prison.

Lorain Correctional is currently in “red” status.

According to the union representing prison guards that means staff and inmates have tested positive for COVID-19. So those officers are currently receiving a supplement per hour that is equal to 10-percent of their base pay.

Teets said the State of Ohio paid about $3.4-million to the state’s corrections officers in hazard pay.

“We are compensating them, and are very appreciative of the job they’re doing under difficult conditions,” Teets said.

It's been reported nationwide that several of Ohio's prisons have more positive cases of COVID-19 concentrated in one place than anywhere in the country.

Inmates have died from the coronavirus, as well as staff members who report to work daily to take care of those ordered to serve time.

A Lorain Corrections Officer who wanted to speak out said the corrections officers were entitled to an additional $8 an hour in additional emergency pay agreed to in their OCSEA-AFSCME Local 11 contract. An agreement that runs through February of 2021.

“The employees that work are entitled to a payment of $8 per hour. We should be receiving that stipend (dating back to when the State of Emergency was declared).

The Corrections Officer who did not want to be identified because of concerns over her job said, she feels the state’s responsibility is spelled out clearly.

19 News was able to view a portion of the union contract between the Corrections Officers and the state of Ohio that said their payment for hours worked for other than weather emergencies is pursuant to a section in the contract that has been in place since 2018.

It did list the additional $8 an hour for emergencies.

The contract stated that an emergency exists when it’s unforeseeable and declared by employers.

Governor Mike DeWine declared a State of Emergency due to the coronavirus on March 9, 2020.

“Some of us have family and kids at home that we are concerned about bringing anything home to. Some of us have elderly parents that we have to take care of, and I just don’t think it’s right,” the Corrections Officer who wished to remain anonymous said.

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