Jailers see employment changes after being stripped of collective bargaining rights

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CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. (WEAU) -- Big changes are in the works for a local jail.

The controversial collective bargaining law and budget concerns are behind the changes in Chippewa County.

At the start of next year, jailers at the Chippewa County Jail will have a change in employment status, making them general employees.

That change has raised some concerns about the jailers' safety.

“Protective status means you must be a patrol officer 51% of the time.

Jailers do not meet that status,” said Chippewa County Administrator Frank Pascarella.

Chippewa County said switching to the general employee category will lower its retirement contribution from 21.8% to 13.6%.

Under Act 10, the county covered jailers' retirement payments.

But in 2013, jail employees will give 6.6% of their earnings to the retirement system.

This will save the county around $200,000 a year.

The county administrator said the changes are being enforced by the state.
“We're responsible to meet the statutory requirements of the Employment Trust Fund. It's a state law,” Pascarella said.

The Wisconsin Professional Police Association said because the jailers are considered deputies they should have the ability to collectively bargain.

Executive Director Jim Palmer said the change in status could impact their safety.

“In order for Chippewa County to strip the protective status away from its jailers, they’re going to have to change their duties and they’re going to have to take those things like firearms training and the ability to use firearms and to participate in the SWAT team. I think it will absolutely make the county jail facility less safe for the men and women who work in it,” Palmer said.

Sheriff Jim Kowalcyzk said in some cases, the changes will push back how early jailers can retire with benefits.

While he didn't initially support this, the sheriff said he doesn't think anything will change.

“I have a jail to run. I’ve got inmates that need to be secure, safe.

Hopefully there will be no incidents involving retaliation against the county by any of our members of the Chippewa County Jail,” Sheriff Kowalcyzk said.

All of this is not over yet.

The WPPA said it’s going to take every legal avenue they can to challenge this and will be filing complaints with the state.

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