The State Worker

New contract raises pay by 24 percent for California prison doctors

Doctors working in certain state prisons will receive a 9 percent base wage increase over the next four years, plus an additional 15 percent “recruitment and retention” incentive.
Doctors working in certain state prisons will receive a 9 percent base wage increase over the next four years, plus an additional 15 percent “recruitment and retention” incentive. Sacramento Bee file, 2009

Doctors at a dozen understaffed prisons stand to gain a 24 percent pay hike over the next four years in a tentative contract for the last state government union working without a labor agreement.

The agreement for the 1,500 workers represented by the Union of American Physicians and Dentists includes a modest general salary increase worth a combined 9 percent through July 1, 2019. That’s consistent with contracts Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration struck with 15 other bargaining units over the past year.

More lucrative incentives are designed to recruit and retain doctors at prisons, where vacancy rates have climbed to 30 percent. They’ll gain the union’s general wage increase, plus another 15 percent in a “recruitment and retention differential” for four years.

That incentive does not count toward an employee’s base pay, and it will not be used to calculate pensions. It also will be removed from the doctors’ pay when the contract expires.

Still, it’s a substantial hike for employees whose average pay in 2014 was about $240,000 a year.

“We’re hoping that the new agreement will help us fill our critical vacancies,” said Joyce Hayhoe, spokeswoman for the federal receivership that has overseen health care in California prisons since 2005.

The union has been working with an expired contract since July and its members had taken the unusual step of authorizing a strike. According to the union, the administration initially offered an 8 percent wage increase over four years with few other financial incentives.

In the last few weeks, union spokeswoman Suzanne Wilson said, the administration offered a more appealing package that included a number of additional wage increases for specific job categories as well as the substantial “recruitment and retention” packages.

“We were waiting for it to be an offer that we could recommend,” she said.

Several of the prisons that will see the special pay hikes are in the Sacramento region. California State Prison-Sacramento and Mule Creek State Prison in Amador County are two of the understaffed facilities that will be able to offer the pay incentives.

The state also is agreeing to offer recruitment and retention incentives to doctors at 15 other state hospitals, veterans affairs facilities and centers for people with developmental disabilities. Wilson said those incentives are intended to prevent a “brain drain” of medical staff members from state facilities that are near the prisons offering the proposed incentives.

The contract must be approved by union members and the Legislature.

Also Thursday, a package of labor agreements that would give raises and bonuses to more than half the state’s workforce passed the Assembly Budget Committee. It has been approved by the Senate and must be approved by the full Assembly before it can go to the governor.

The package includes new agreements for state firefighters, mental health workers and the largest state union, Service Employees International Union Local 1000.

Adam Ashton: 916-321-1063, @Adam_Ashton. Sign up for state worker news alerts at

Recruitment incentives

A new contract for state doctors includes recruitment and retention incentives equivalent to a 15 percent pay hike for doctors at the following prisons and hospitals:

Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

▪  Avenal State Prison

▪  California Medical Facility

▪  California State Prison – Corcoran

▪  California State Prison – Sacramento

▪  California State Prison – Los Angeles

▪  Mule Creek State Prison

▪  North Kern State Prison (Delano I)

▪  Kern Valley State Prison (Delano II)

▪  Pleasant Valley State Prison

▪  Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility

▪  Salinas Valley State Prison

▪  California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility – Corcoran

California Department of Veterans Affairs

▪  Chula Vista

▪  Lancaster

▪  West Los Angeles

▪  Yountville

Department of Developmental Services

▪  Fairview Developmental Center

▪  Porterville Developmental Center

▪  Sonoma Developmental Center

Doctors at the following hospitals will receive 12 percent recruitment and retention differentials:

▪  Coalinga

▪  Napa

▪  Salinas Valley

▪  Stockton

▪  Vacaville

Doctors at the following hospitals will receive 7 percent recruitment and retention differentials:

▪  Atascadero

▪  Metropolitan

▪  Patton