Prince George's County corrections officers overwhelmingly voted down a contract yesterday that would have given them 8.5 percent pay raises this year and in 1988.
Frank Murphy, president of the 180-member Prince George's County Correctional Officers Association, said that the vote was 105 to 39.
"This was a message to the county that you thought this proposal was good, but it is not good enough," Murphy said.
The vote was cast on the same day the county began emergency steps to bolster security at the officers' work place, the Prince George's County Detention Center in Upper Marlboro. Work will begin today on a new fence to prevent escapes such as one this week in which four prisoners got out; all were captured.
The proposed contract voted on yesterday was the product of several months of bargaining sessions.
Salaries for corrections officers now range from $18,954 to $32,995 annually. Money, Murphy said, was not the issue that caused members to vote against the contract.
Some officers opposed the contract because it failed to give correctional officers status as protective service workers similar to county police and firefighters. Such status would force the county or the association to abide by the decision of an outside mediator if the two sides could not agree on a contract, Murphy said.
Murphy said that the County Council may now get involved in negotiations, but the law does not compel the association or the county to continue negotiations.
Also yesterday, county officials awarded contracts to two companies to improve security along perimeter fences. Work on the $227,180 projects will begin this morning, said Christy Merenda, a spokeswoman for the Corrections Department.
The work will include the installation of additional razor wire on the center's perimeter fences and of "unclimbable" wire mesh on courtyard walls and perimeter fences, she said. In addition, the county police canine unit has been assigned to patrol the jail's perimeter until the facility's own unit has been trained.
The added security measures are designed to prevent escapes from the six-month-old, state-of-the-art detention center. Three escapes have occurred there since May 26.