Sunday, March 9, 2014

A True Tale Of The Bureau Of Prisons...

A few years before I retired, at an institution that will for now remain nameless, the union wanted to create a compressed work schedule for the Correctional Services department. They believed that even though most posts on the Custody Roster are covered 24/7, they could work out a roster on which some staff could work a compressed schedule, working four 10-hour days, while the others had to remain working regular 8-hour shifts. They were going to let officers bid for the compressed schedule based on seniority. Hardly fair for all but that's another story.

The Warden, being a good sport and willing to give it a chance, told the union to create a working roster that adhered to the written roster management guidelines in the Correctional Services Manual, and that would work with the current staff complement in Correctional Services, and submit it to him for review by the resident subject matter expert. Unbeknownst to the union, at the time that subject matter expert was me.

The union got their best heads together along with the manual and created their roster. Five day posts such as the Captain's Secretary, SIS Technicians, etc., were fairly easy. That is, except for those five day posts that absolutely had to be filled all five days, such as the Visiting Room. (The Warden said the current schedules for the department, such as five day per week visiting, must also remain intact.

When the finished they were proud. They printed it out on 8-1/2 x 14 inch paper and took it to the Warden. Their numbers added up, all posts were covered and it would be a good thing for all.

The Warden gave the roster to me. I scanned it to see that indeed they had all post covered, including some that were doubly covered by people who would work 8 hours on one post then move to another post for their last two hours.

Theoretically, with some tweaking, it might just work. But then I got down to the math. The Correctional Services Manual is very specific about how to create and maintain a staff roster for adequate staff coverage of all posts 7 days a week, 365 days a year and, in many cases, 24 hours a day. There is a mathematical formula that takes into account Annual Leave days, Sick Leave days, days off and the average number of days an employee normally works.

That formula is applied to each and every position on the roster which, in turn, gives you the number of people you actually need to staff your department. That particular chapter of the manual had been updated in 1999 by myself, at the request of the Central Office, when I was the Training Specialist for the Correctional Services department at our Management and Specialty Training Center in Denver. It's one of the classes I taught weekly to Lieutenants.

I reviewed their roster. On paper it looked decent but when I began crunching numbers it didn't add up. According to the formula for computing the necessary complement for their roster they needed an additional six staff positions to make it work. I checked the numbers twice to be sure. I went back to the Warden and gave him the news. He looked at my work, asked me if I had double checked and was sure of myself, and thanked me.

The next day one of the creators of the roster came to my office, roster and manual in hand, a bit upset, and told me I was wrong about their numbers not working. The conversation went something like this:

Union: You're wrong about the numbers. We checked them and double checked them. They work.

Me: I'm sorry. I know you're not happy but using the guidelines as written in the manual they don't add up. You must have used different numbers.

Union: The formula for the complement analysis doesn't work for this roster. You have to change the numbers to accommodate the compressed schedule.

Me: You can't do that. First of all it's written policy and not open to be arbitrarily changed. Secondly, even with a compressed work schedule you have to cover the roster 24/7/365. You must take into account not only Annual Leave and Sick days but you are also giving some people three days off per week instead of two. Those are days you must cover with someone else in most cases. You have to use the formula in the manual to do that or it doesn't work. Your roster needs six more positions to cover everything properly. I'm sorry but it's the truth.

Union: We don't have to use the formula as written because it wasn't written for a compressed work schedule. You obviously don't know enough about the new roster management policy guidelines.

Me: That may be true...  although back in 1999, when I wrote the new roster management policy guidelines, while I was the instructor for that very class at the MSTC, the Central Office thought I knew enough about it. But I guess you could be right.

Union:  .................

Needless to say their roster was turned down by the Warden. I don't know if they ever figured one out but unless policy guidelines have changed since I left, it didn't happen. It was one of my most memorable union encounters....

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