The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Local News

July 10, 2014

Guards to be hired to work part time

MERCER COUNTY — Nine part-time prison guards are on the agenda to be hired this morning by Mercer County Commissioners.

The three-man board will vote on the positions that are a necessity, according to Chairman John Lechner, because staffing requirements call for part-time workers who can cover shifts during peak vacation season.

If approved, the three women and six men will be paid $13.27 per hour and can work up to 28 hours a month, according to Ross Livermore, union steward.

County officials are considering privatizing the 250-bed jail, citing financial factors. Jail operations, Lechner said, cost the county about $7 million annually, eating up about 25 percent of the tax revenue paid annually by residents.

Union members, who have been working without a contract for more than two years, say the commissioners are using the threat of privatization as retaliation for a lawsuit filed seeking compensation for an alleged labor law violation.

A private company toured the jail last month and Lechner said the board is seeking information about the exact costs of outsourcing operations. Corrections officers, who would likely be facing a 50 percent pay cut under a private company, said they believe it’s unsafe.

Any private company proposals would be evaluated by the Mercer County Prison Board, which includes the president judge, the district attorney, the sheriff, the prison warden, the county comptroller and the three commissioners.

The part-time positions are not open because of the current struggle between the two sides, Livermore said.

“It’s not that anyone quit or anything like that. Some people just moved on to different things, before all this started. No one is leaving. We’re buckling down and trying to get our message out,” he said.

The prison board meets at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the Mercer County Jail. Meetings are open to the public.

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