Ohio’s prisons department announced Thursday the possibility of more than two dozen layoffs as the state phases out its prison farm program, while signaling its interest in quickly placing affected workers into new positions.
State prisons chief Gary Mohr told The Associated Press the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction has been unable to place 28 of roughly 70 affected employees.
A layoff “rationale” filed Thursday triggers collective bargaining rights for displaced prison farm workers and was a required step under their contract to placing them into new jobs.
The Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, the state’s largest public employee union, has fought the move to close a prison farming operation that dates back to 1868. The union is reviewing the layoff filing to determine whether it should be challenged.
Mohr, who originally predicted no layoffs would be necessary, said the department has more than 300 job openings and he doesn’t anticipate a problem placing the displaced farm program workers.
“It’s regrettable from my perspective and it doesn’t make common sense, quite frankly, for us not to just be able to sit down one-on-one and talk about opportunities with these folks,” he told the AP. “But we’ve got to get this thing going and alleviate some of the uncertainties for our staff, and we need to get these folks placed in positions we need.”
Union president Christopher Mabe said his organization has been demanding the filing of the layoff rationale for a year. OCSEA filed an unfair labor practice complaint over the state’s failure to issue the notice and sought an injunction in court.
“Our union contract ensures that employees have equal rights and protections, including in a layoff process. Not only do we have a process that treats everyone fairly, we have a procedure that both sides agreed to in contract negotiations,” he said in a statement. “Making sure the process is a fair one is not always the easiest thing to…