URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) – Some Champaign County correctional officers say morale is low among jail workers. It’s been hard to hire and keep employees. So, they want to start negotiating for a better contract. Their current one expires in December.

We spoke with a union representative who said they’re facing a major staffing shortage. But, he said that’s not new.

They’re down 16 officers, and Micah McMahon said it’s been taking a toll on their physical and mental health. That’s why he went to the County Board meeting Tuesday night and asked to start the negotiation process.

McMahon said Vermilion County recently approved a pay raise, and their starting salary is now 27% higher than in Champaign County. He said they just want to catch up, and be able to offer competitive benefits and pay so they can recruit and retain officers.

Board member Jim McGuire said he doesn’t understand why they’re still delaying bargaining, and they should support the staff before the county loses more.

“When will we get serious about this issue?” McGuire said during the meeting.

“It’s one of those things where we just need to catch up. There’s no reason we should be this far behind some of our surrounding counties because Champaign County is a great place to live. We want to make sure that it’s properly staffed here at the jail to ensure the safety and security of the community,” McMahon said.

McMahon said some officers are working 12-16 extra hours of overtime per week and haven’t taken a regular day off for a while. He said closing the downtown jail helped, but housing is still limited.

He said they’re not making any demands; the union just hopes the board will be willing to sit down for a fair discussion.