July 15, 2013
By Neal Tepel
Tampa, Fla. – Teamsters Local 2011, which represents 17,000 officers of the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC), filed a formal complaint against the state with the Florida Public Employees Relations Commission (PERC). The complaint alleges the state committed an unfair labor practice by taking away officers’ earned, paid time off.
Based on wording in the contract, the state is allowed to require mandatory work on holidays for which officers earn special compensatory time. However, the state is planning to take away officers’ earned time if they do not use it in a certain time period (for example, within 6 months). In addition, due to critical staffing shortages at prisons, officers are not being allowed to take time off.
The Teamsters attempted to clarify the illegal language during the most recent contract negotiations, but the state was unwilling to make any changes in the language of the contract. Florida law requires the legislature to resolve any bargaining impasses including issues that the state and the Union cannot agree on. The legislature approved the state’s proposal for the contract not the union's, thus keeping existing contract language with the forced forfeiture provision.
The state’s controversial language that had been included in the contract will continue to be an issue. Its hoped that PERC will determine that the state acted improperly in requiring earned special compensatory time be eliminated from each officers’ bank of leave time, if it is not used during the time period set by the contract.
“We approached the negotiations with a sincere resolve to addressing what we believed to be an illegal forfeiture of earned hours,” said Teamsters International Vice President Ken Wood from Tampa, Fla. “It’s unfortunate that the state’s representatives showed an unwillingness to do the right thing. Our correctional officers should not be required to work and then have their earned time taken away from them. We will pursue all legal avenues to have the problem corrected and our dedicated officers made whole.”