PDT Staff Writer
LUCASVILLE — Members of Local 7330 of the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association (OCSEA) at Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (SOCF) say they are greatly concerned about the loss of jobs as a result of the announcement that the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction has signed a contract with a private company to take over food service in Ohio’s correctional facilities.
“It’s going to affect employment. It’s going to affect our security issues,” Luke Vansickle, President of Local 7330, said. “Right now we’re looking at losing approximately 27 food service workers.”
Ohio is turning over the feeding of its approximately 50,000 prison inmates to Philadelphia-based Aramark in an attempt by the Kasich administration to save the state $14 million annually. That move came as the result of budget deficits in the DRC. Aramark won the contract with a price of $3.61 per day per inmate, Smith said.
Does the DRC have an estimate of how many workers will be displaced by the privatization?
“Not as yet we don’t,” JoEllen Smith, Public Information Officer for the DRC said. “The reason is, Director (Gary) Mohr has committed to exceeding the current table of organization for the correction officer ranks in order to place all interested eligible staff members into a position at their current work locations, so that process will continue up until the contract is effective, which is in September, so, unfortunately, no, I can’t say. There’s also a preferential hiring clause in the contract for the food service as well.”
Does that mean current SOCF food service workers will be given preference when it comes to Aramark’s hiring?
“Yes, absolutely,” Smith said.
According to Smith, more than 230 of the 433 food service workers that have been displaced by the move have found other positions within the system.
“The union in Columbus has been working on it for several months now,” Vansickle said. “They (OSCEA) actually put together a proposal to help save money, and I believe the union could have saved more money than a private contractor. But as of Friday, they officially turned it down.”
The state could house as many as 52,100 inmates by the end of the next two year budget cycle in June 2015. That’s 1,200 more than had been expected.
The union says there is also a security component to the arrangement.
“Even our food service employees go through the same training as the officers,” Vansickle said. “And these private employees are not going to be mandated to do that.”
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking news, follow Frank on Twitter @FrankLewisPDT.