Suffolk correction officers have reached a tentative agreement on a new six-year, $52.4-million contract that will increase pay for most correction officers by 10 percent, while aiming to retain new officers by upping their $30,000 starting pay by $3,000, giving them a path to parity with veteran officers.
The new contract for the 800-member Suffolk County Correction Officers Association, would encompass 2019-2024. The pact was unanimously approved Wednesday by the Suffolk County Legislature's government operations committee. Union officials say their membership will vote on ratification of the contract Thursday. The full legislature will vote on the pact Tuesday in Hauppauge.
The new agreement includes no increase for 600 veteran officers in 2019, but gives a two percent pay hike on Jan. 1, effective on July 1. It also gives additional raises of 1.5 percent in 2021; 1.75 percent in 2022; 2 percent in 2023; and 2.75 percent in 2024. That will bring their top step annual salary to nearly $114,000.
The 200 officers hired after June 2015 will remain on a 24-step pay scale. Union officials said their twice-a-year step increases, which were limited to about $1,300, will be increased to about $6,000 a year. The contact calls for them to reach parity with more senior officers, who now reach top pay in six years. Currently there is an 18.5 percent gap between the top salaries for new and more veteran officers.
Michael Sharkey, chief deputy sheriff, said the new contract will help ease problems attracting and retaining new correction officers. He said the county has exhausted its competitive civil service hiring list of 1,000 applicants in each of the last two years because fewer are willing take jobs. Before the most recent contract, there were more than 7,000 applicants who sought jobs and the hiring list lasted four years.
Louis Viscusi, correction union president, said the new contract “will go a long way… to addressing our concerns about recruitment and retention.” He said the county pays more than $60,000 to train each officer, money lost when newly trained officers leave and earn more outside the county or the state.
Legis. Samuel Gonzalez (D-Brentwood) said he was pleased by the pact, noting “It will make us very competitive with Nassau and New York City.”
Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Copiague) said the new contract should rebalance the pay scale with other county jobs. “If you look at the salaries of security guards at the Suffolk [County] Community College … they are making about the same or a little more,” he said, adding, “But the dangers of the job aren’t the same.”
Legis. Robert Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) said, “I think the contract seems pretty fair. But how are we going to pay for it?”
The new contract also rolls back a provision for new employees after June 2015 which provided unlimited sick time but no compensation for unused days. The new pact gives 13 days annually, and allows banking up to 360 sick days, for which they can be paid for 180 in retirement.