The State Worker

California prison officers OK contract with raises, sweeteners

A prison officer searches a subject on his way to drop off his laundry, inside the High Desert State Prison, near Susanville.
A prison officer searches a subject on his way to drop off his laundry, inside the High Desert State Prison, near Susanville. Sacramento Bee Staff Photo

California’s correctional officers will see a raise on their July paychecks under terms of a new contract they overwhelmingly ratified, the union announced this week.

More than nine in 10 ballots cast approved the three-year agreement, according to a press release by the California Correctional Peace Officers Association. The union did not say how many of its 29,000 members voted. Gov. Jerry Brown signed the package into law Monday.

“Our negotiations team worked hard to get us a good contract, a fair contract,” union president Chuck Alexander said in a press statement. “Our membership recognized this, and voted accordingly.”

The contract includes annual across-the-board 3 percent pay raises. The first raise kicks in for the pay period following ratification, so employees covered by the union will see that money on July paychecks that cover the June pay period. The second and third raises take effect on July 1, 2017 and July 1, 2018.

Salaries for CCPOA members cost the state about $2.1 billion in 2015, state pay data show. The new contract will add incrementally more cost each year, topping out at $588 million in fiscal 2018-19, according to a recent analysis.

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

Other provisions, however, add more cash to the deal. Changes to overtime, uniform reimbursements and retention bonuses have all been retooled to give employees more money.

And the state’s “physical fitness incentive pay,” which was $65 or $130 per month depending on seniority, will now be $130 per month for all employees and makes the money part of base pay. That means the added $1,560 per year would count toward retirement calculations and would increase with any future negotiated percentage increases to base pay.

Correctional officers receive fitness pay regardless of their physical condition. To qualify for the bonus, they must only submit to an annual physical examination. The reason, union and state officials have said, is that when the pay was conditional on showing fitness, employees injured themselves during assessments and went off work on disability.