Missouri corrections workers not receiving overtime

Tuesday, September 11, 2001

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Thousands of Department of Corrections officers have been working for a year without receiving overtime pay because the agency says it cannot afford the tab.

Since last July, state corrections officers haven't received overtime pay and haven't been able to take time off as compensation.

To date, most corrections officers have logged more than 250,000 hours in state overtime totaling more than $3.1 million, according to the Corrections Department.

An organization representing the officers said the amount of state overtime is more than 500,000 hours at a cost of more than $6 million.

"Because of the budget, we didn't have enough money to pay them," Tim Kniest, a spokesman for the Corrections Department, said Monday.

Corrections officers who work more than 40 hours a week earn overtime paid from federal funds.

Officers who work on days they are scheduled off or on state holidays collect overtime from the state.

Kniest said more than $780,000 paid to the state for holding illegal aliens will be used to pay federal overtime to more than 2,400 Missouri corrections officers.

"Partial relief is on the way," Kniest said.

But funding for state overtime won't come anytime soon.

It would be up to lawmakers to approve additional funding early next year in order for officers to receive their accumulated overtime, Kniest said.

Gary Gross, a corrections officer at the Tipton Correctional Center, said workers can't make extra money through a second job because so much overtime is required by the Department of Corrections.

Because of staff shortages and prison security requirements, workers can't decline to work longer hours, Gross said.

Morale low

"It requires so much staff to man an institution," Gross said. "We get time off, but there's not enough staff available to get the time off. The morale is pretty low."

The Department of Corrections suffered one of the largest cuts -- $19 million -- but still will be allowed to hire new guards. All prisons will take a 3 percent cut -- a standard budget withholding that in good years is often released later.

Other corrections cuts will delay planned maintenance and reduce the department's cell phone use.

Rep. Bill Gratz, D-Jefferson City, said he has been hearing from corrections officers for months and is hoping that despite a tight budget, the Legislature will be able to find money to pay the overtime.

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