The State Worker

CCPOA contract puts cash in prison guards’ wallets beyond raises

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About 750 condemned inmates are living out their lives on death row at San Quentin State Prison, California's oldest state prison which opened in 1852.

The latest tentative labor agreement with California’s correctional officers proves that there’s more than one way to boost employee compensation without calling it a “raise.”

While the new contract proposal for the 29,000 members of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association contains modest salary bumps, other provisions put more money in their pockets now and later by changing everything from fitness pay rules to making some paid leave count toward the threshold for overtime.

Salaries for union members last year totaled about $2.1 billion, not including another $350 million for overtime, leave cashouts and other special payments, according to data from the State Controller’s Office.

An analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office figures that, if approved, the contract would incrementally add annual costs that top out at $588 million in fiscal 2018-19.

About half that sum, $316.8 million, would come from raises. The pay increases are spread over three years, for a cumulative raise of 9.3 percent.

Meanwhile, the members would begin contributing to a retiree benefits trust fund. Those contributions would increase incrementally to 4 percent of pay beginning in 2018-19. The state would match payments into the fund.

Add the raises, take out the retiree health contributions and the officers get a net 5.3 percent raise at the end of the deal.

But other provisions add cash and enhanced benefits to the agreement more subtly, the analyst noted.

Overtime

Current law prohibits any form of paid leave from consideration as time worked for the purpose of figuring overtime or compensating time off for overtime. For example, a paid sick day can’t be figured into the 40 hours beyond which an employee receives time-and-a-half for working.

The new deal with CCPOA allows “time off from work for jury leave, military training leave, and subpoenaed witness leave to count as ‘time worked’ for purposes of calculating overtime pay in a week,” the analyst’s report states.

Under the current rules, correctional officers received $340 million in overtime – an average $12,000 per employee – in 2015.

The new agreement would up that cost, the analysis states: “We think it is reasonable to assume that the scheduled pay increases will increase overtime costs for (correctional officers) by tens of millions of dollars – likely exceeding $30 million each year by the end of the agreement.”

$2.1 billionBase wages paid to CCPOA members in calendar 2015.

Fitness pay

The state’s “physical fitness incentive pay,” currently $65 or $130 per month depending on seniority, does not currently count toward pension calculations. The new contract agreement would give all the union’s members $130 per month and count it as base pay. The net effect, the analyst notes, is that the $1,560 per year would count toward retirement and would increase with any future negotiated percentage increases to base pay.

(Worth noting: Correctional officers receive the pay regardless of their physical condition. To receive the money, they must only submit to a yearly physical examination. The reason, union and state officials have said, is that employees were injuring themselves during the physical-fitness assessments and going on disability.)

Clothing cash

The proposed contract boosts the uniform allowance for correctional officers from $530 per year to $950. The money is not considered pensionable, however.

Vision and dental benefits

CCPOA members receive their vision, life and dental coverage from a member-controlled trust fund instead of through the state. Currently, the state pays $5 million per year into the fund. The new agreement incrementally hikes the state’s contribution to $19 million in 2017-18.

Seniority and retention pay

Employees with enough time on the job receive a pay differential of 1 percent to 8 percent based on their years of service. The new contract increases the scale to 2 percent to 9 percent. The differential counts toward retirement calculations.

The state also pays a $175 monthly housing stipend for officers working at certain facilities and $2,400 annual recruitment/retention bonuses for those working at certain prisons. The new agreement increases those payments to $200 and $2,600 respectively and expands the facilities where employees would be eligible.

Contract ratification ballots have been sent to members and must be returned for counting by May 6. Expect the rank and file to overwhelmingly approve the deal.

Editor’s note, April 12, 2016: This post has been changed to reflect the correct payment amount from the state to the union’s vision and dental trust by 2017-18.

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