Union ratifies contract avoiding privatization of Mercer jail - 21 News Now, More Local News for Youngstown, Ohio -

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Union ratifies contract avoiding privatization of Mercer jail

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MERCER, Pa. -

There is temporary relief for about 60 correction officers at the Mercer County jail.

An overwhelming majority approved the terms of their new contract, meaning the county can no longer turn operations of the jail over to a private company, at least not until the end of 2017 when the contract is up.

"It's something we are going to look forward to in the future. We are seeking political help to make sure we never have to face this again in four years," said Sgt. Doyle Whenry, Teamsters Local 250.

Mercer County commissioners began considering privatization in order to cut county costs.

Union members argued against it, citing safety concerns, that a private company would bring in lower paid and less experienced employees.

As part of a concession the union agreed to pay $10 more per paycheck towards health care, as well as an additional $10 in each subsequent year of the contract.

They also view a two percent pay raise for each year of the contract as a concession, since in past contracts they received three percent each year. The highest paid officers, currently make $20.23 per hour.

And although, the contract puts the larger issue of privatization on the back burner, it's still something commissioners may consider in the future.

"Budget is always a concern and making sure we stay within the realm of what the tax payers of Mercer County can afford. But for all sense and purposes we hope to continue working with this union going forward," said Matt McConnell, Mercer County Commissioner.

Whenry said the union is relieved for now, "Appreciate being here, appreciate having a job and we'll look forward to an attack on the privatization problem in the future."

Commissioners still need to sign off on the contract, they expect to do so next Thursday.


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