Union withdraws DOC complaints

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Department of Corrections (PNC file photo)
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The Guam Federation of Teachers has withdrawn the complaints it filed regarding working conditions at the Department of Corrections following GFT union representative Robert Koss’ meeting with Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero Friday afternoon.

Koss said GFT has agreed to pull back the complaints he filed with local and federal authorities and the union has agreed to let the governor try and resolve the problems at the Department of Corrections.

Earlier, GFT filed a series of complaints with federal and local agencies over the working conditions for prison guards at the Department of Corrections.

Thursday night, Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero issued a statement in response to those complaints and Friday afternoon she met with union representatives to assure them she is doing all she can to resolve the problems at DOC.

Staffing and safety issues for employees at the Department of Corrections have been the focus of the governor’s attention for most of the week.

On Tuesday, she met with DOC staff and on Wednesday, she met with DOC director Samantha Brennen.

But by that time, corrections officers have had enough. On Wednesday morning, their GFT union representative, Robert Koss, filed a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Bureau of Prisons.

Among the issues cited in the federal complaint are the severe understaffing at DOC which “jeopardizes employee and inmate safety” and “frequent 24-hour shifts” as well as “no backup or support team in place for officers in the event of emergency”

“The response basically seemed to suggest that the feds would not get involved until the local government had had an opportunity to address the problem. So, I assume that they’re monitoring and we’re going to work at the local level and seek a resolution,” Koss said.

Koss then filed a complaint on Thursday with the Guam Department of Labor which, among other claims, accuses DOC director Samantha Brennan of “recklessly endangering the lives of employees” because of the shortage of staff and long work hours.

“We had an incident recently which has left an officer not injured, but traumatized, and on leave because he is scared to go back to work. What we had was a very large Samoan who became angry and he was able to knock down a concrete wall in the shower area and then of course using large blocks to vent his rage with only one officer there to try and address the problem,” Koss said.

In a statement to the media Thursday night, the governor said “staffing shortages and underfunding have festered for years at DOC” and her administration “inherited many of DOC’s problems.”

She said that unpaid overtime has been reduced from three months unpaid “to just 2 pay periods behind.”

The governor said her “goal is the deployment of at least 40 new DOC recruits” and to “provide additional resources for safety equipment.”

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