October Legistlative UpdateState Administrative Board Approves Aramark Contract
Despite strong and reasoned opposition from MAGE, on September 30, the State Administrative Board unanimously approved contracting out prison food services to Aramark. During the subsequent 60 days, Aramark will hire staff to run kitchens and complete its contracts with food suppliers. Corrections spokesperson Russ Marlan said the company is expected to bring in some of its own employees but will also interview any current DOC food services workers who apply. Marlan also said the department is planning a special corrections officer school for displaced workers.
MAGE and other unions have continued to tell policymakers that food quality remains a concern and that food-related issues often trigger violent incidents. The anticipated high staff turnover and brief on-line training of Aramark employees is not conducive to safety for other prisoners, or for DOC staff.
Michigan’s Public Employment Sector Continues To Shrink
The report, Michigan’s Single State Recession and Its Effects on Public Employment, recently released by the Citizen Research Council (CMC) of Michigan, revealed striking cuts to Michigan’s public sector work force. The report showed that employment loss in local government accounts for most of the overall public sectors’ employment decline. The report also said K-12 education has lost nearly 16 percent of its jobs between 2000 and 2011. This is significant considering K-12 education comprises over 55 percent of local government. In the non-educational sectors, including public hospitals and general government, state government has dropped by 13 percent since 2001, while local government has declined by 8.4 percent. There have also been steep cuts in non-educational sectors such as the local police and fire protection. The cuts have helped drive down the state’s per capita income to among the lowest in the nation.
Snyder Signs Corrections Retirement Bill
On September 24, Governor Rick Snyder signed into law HB 4664 (PA 112, immediate effect.) The bill will allow the Department of Corrections to continue hiring retired corrections officers on a part-time basis to reduce overtime costs through September 30, 2015. The bill also states that a rehired corrections officer cannot be paid more than 80 percent of the maximum wages granted to a classified civil services employee who performs the same duties.
A similar bill passed last year, but with a September 30, 2013 sunset. Lawmakers extended the sunset two years as a way to continue participation in the program, as a money-saving effort.
Impact of Federal Government Shutdown on State Employees
It comes as a relief to see that the federal stalemate on budget is temporarily resolved. The state had begun the issuance of furlough notices to employee unions with workers partially or fully funded through federal money. At the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, 900 military technicians have already been furloughed. Another 12,000 national guardsmen have seen their training and other duties suspended for now. The state had also declared a hiring freeze for federally funded program employees.
State Declines to Privatize 1,000 Prison Beds
The Department of Technology and Budget (DTMB) has announced that it will decline to put prisoners in a privately run correctional facility after bids came in at nearly $6 million over the state’s current costs. The state’s cost in providing services to the prisoners in question was $12.9 million in the first year. The lowest bid using the state facility was $20.9 million in the first year, and the lowest bid using a private facility was $18.6 million.
However, MAGE does not believe this issue will just go away and is keeping a watchful eye on it.
By: Ellen Hoekstra and Todd Tennis, Capitol Services, Inc.