TAFT, Okla. — The Oklahoma Department of Corrections director says he wants to secure a 5 percent pay raise for all department staff.

Director Joe Allbaugh said Tuesday that he wants to make the raise a top priority during the next legislative session, The Tulsa World (http://bit.ly/2cmK37u ) reports.

Allbaugh says it’s unacceptable that nearly 40 percent of department employees haven’t received a raise in 10 years.

“In the public safety arena, we’re at the bottom of the barrel in Oklahoma,” Allbaugh said.

Oklahoma’s Public Employees Association policy director Sean Wallace says correctional officers received a raise three years ago, but that it’s not enough for a livable wage.

“It’s just a waste of money to recruit and bring in all these cadets and watch 40 percent of them leave within six months,” Wallace said. “You’re going to save money by actually investing in your employees. We’ve talked about a $15-an-hour minimum starting pay for correctional officers. (A) 5 percent (raise) isn’t going to get them there. You have fast-food workers across the country arguing they deserve a $15-an-hour minimum. The state of Oklahoma should provide that to correctional officers who are at $12.77 an hour.”

Wallace said he’s glad the director is making employee pay a central issue, but thinks getting a pay raise will be a challenge in the Legislature.

Allbaugh says he’ll work with the Board of Corrections to explore ways to allocate nearly $10.2 million that the department got back from the state, which had a surplus of more than $140 million at the end of the last fiscal year.

Information from: Tulsa World, http://www.tulsaworld.com