FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – In just 13 days, correctional officers at the Fresno County Jail could walk off the job. The Fresno County Public Safety Association has a strike planned for May 23.
“The working conditions in there are terrible they’ve gotten more dangerous, and it’s never going to be any better until the jail is adequately staffed and it’s never going to be adequately staffed until the county provides the pay and benefits that keep people wanting to work there,” lawyer for the Fresno County Public Safety Association Tony Silva said.
Silva said one of their main issues is how much more sheriff’s deputies are paid in comparison to correctional officers. He said a deputy could be making 40% more than a correctional officer, and that deputies’ pay has risen much faster in the past ten years.
“There’s no reason that the county shouldn’t want to treat their employees fairly and equally, and when they see that a bargaining unit has fallen that far behind, they should want to remedy that, they should want to look at long term solutions,” he added.
But officials with Fresno County said they are working on a solution. They said their most recent offering included 11% base salary increases, increases to health insurance contributions, and a one-time pandemic payment.
In a statement sent out Tuesday, county administrative officer Paul Nerland said it’s the county’s position that the strike is illegal.
“The sheriff’s office has a plan to effectively respond to this job action. In the event of a strike, jail facilities will continue to prioritize and ensure the safety of the public, staff, and inmates. The county’s plan is not to release inmates prematurely as a result of this temporary job action, and impact to jail operations will be minimal if any,” Nerland said.
When it comes to staffing, Nerland said the department added 19 new corrections officers that are starting soon and are going through medical clearance. He added that 277 people just applied and are going through testing soon.
Silva said he does not believe a strike is illegal.
He said correctional officers in Fresno County are not classified as peace officers and they have gone on strike before.
Nerland said that has not happened in decades, and the correctional officers were represented by a different union at the time.
“I think the public can expect to see people walk off the job, and there to be some picketing downtown,” he said.
The union said they will have representation at the next board of supervisors meeting on May 17 to try to work a final deal out before the strike.