SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) –– A contract negotiated between Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration and the politically powerful prison guards’ union could prove costly to taxpayers because it lets guards bank unlimited vacation time that must be paid out when they retire, a legislative analyst said Tuesday.

The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office said the average correctional officer already has nearly 19 weeks of accumulated leave time, currently valued at $600 million. Adding more time will cost the state in the long run, said fiscal and policy analyst Nick Schroeder, though he couldn’t say how soon or how much.

The contract concessions come as Brown, a Democrat, mends ties with the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, a 30,000-member union that backed his campaign last year. Former Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had battled the union, imposing a contract in 2006 that eliminated many of the concessions negotiated by his predecessor.

The pending contract contains several provisions common to all the collective bargaining agreements negotiated by Brown’s administration, including substituting one day a month of unpaid leave for the three-day-a-month furloughs Schwarzenegger had imposed to help fight the state’s multi-billion dollar budget deficits.

But the contract awaiting approval by the Legislature also has several special provisions for correctional officers.

Accumulated leave time is currently limited to 80 days for prison guards and most other state employees, though California Highway Patrol Officers can currently bank 102 days.

Employees who exceed the limit are supposed to work with their managers to schedule more time off, but that has proved unrealistic because the prisons must always be staffed, said Department of Personnel Administration spokeswoman Lynelle Jolley.

“It’s virtually impossible for those employees to get time off,” she said. “They’re in this catch-22 where they can’t use the time off they have, so it’s become impossible for them to not exceed the cap.”

The contract gives guards more than eight weeks off work annually, including the unpaid leave, making it more likely they will bank time to be paid out on retirement, according to the legislative analysis.

Last year, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation paid out nearly $100 million in unused leave time. The analysis said a much larger bill could come due soon: more than one-third of the guards are more than 46 years old, and most qualify to retire at age 50.

The previous contract with the guards required them to meet physical fitness standards to qualify for an incentive of up to $130 each month. The pending contract would pay the incentive if guards get a physical exam once each year, no matter their condition.

“It’s calling it a fitness incentive, but it’s really just an incentive to go to the doctor,” said Schroeder.

He and Jolley said the provision matches the contract to what has been a common practice for years.

“The notion of getting a correctional officer to go to the doctor once a year is a good thing,” said Jolley. “We don’t want them chasing down a bad guy and dropping over of a heart attack.”

Guards make up California’s second-largest state employees’ union, and their salaries eat up 40 percent of the payroll through the state’s general fund that pays for most state operations. Schwarzenegger’s predecessor, Democrat Gray Davis, had agreed to a contract that gave guards a 34 percent pay increase between 2003 and 2008. That was more than twice as high as the average increase for a state employee during that time.

The pending contract includes up to a 4 percent pay increase that would take effect July 1, 2013.

Davis agreed to the contract shortly before he was recalled from office in 2003. Schwarzenegger used the union as an example of public employee unions with too many perks and too much power.

All the pending contracts are included in a single bill, SB151 by Sen. Lou Correa, D-Anaheim, that is awaiting action in a Senate committee. They need support from two-thirds of Republicans, who have called for deeper concessions from unions.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

Comments (65)
  1. Steven Freitas says:

    Here’s an idea… Take the extra vacation time and use it to hire more guards so that the rest can take their normal amount of vacation!

    Noooo. The union won’t let them do that.

    1. jt says:

      I seriously doubt the unions have anything to do with staffing shortages!! These shortages are long term and have been an issue for over 20 years now!! Budgets being what they are means cut staff – lower positions before management. Prisons get more crowded each day – who’s going to make sure YOU (and the rest of the public) stay safe???

  2. Larry says:

    I don’t think the citizens are wasting their time John. Look at what’s going on in Wisconsin. There is a movement in this Country that is going to rein in collective bargaining in this Country. The unions contribute to Dems who reward them with contract paybacks. The taxpayers end of footing the bill. Cities, counties, the state and the nation are going broke. Aren’t you paying attention! You are one of those experts that knows more and more about less and less until you finally know everything about nothing.

  3. c/o says:

    these haters in here are probably on there cell phones in prison commenting to much hate for them to be anything other

    1. chachi211 says:

      @ c/o your full of it always deflecting! here is one for you! You all are doing a shake down on the public who pay your wages! You are just another kind of crook! You belong behind the bars you gaurd! You will never get it! So all I can do is feel pitty for you!

      1. derF says:

        The difference between a prison guard and a prisoner is no more than the thickness of a badge

    2. derF says:

      Great command of the language there c/o. You should remember the old saying – “You can keep your mouth shut and let people think you are dumb, or you can open it and prove it”.

  4. Mike says:

    To all you people criticizing the C/O for how easy they have it I would love to see you work in a prison. It funny how you love to complain about how unfair it is but lets see you do the job they do. Ignorance is bliss.

    1. derF says:

      You must be pretty blissful, eh?

      1. Mike says:

        i am sorry that this may have an affect on your welfare check every month…

    2. JT says:

      Mike I agree with how difficult the majority pf C/O’s have it!! I’d like to see everyone who is complaining take some time and actually ‘think’ about what a C/O is having to deal with each and every day. They have to worry about what’s being spit at them, yelled at them, always being aware someone might shove a shiv in their backs, having to ask 6-8 months in advance to take one day off for their kids high school graduation yet being turned down because there are not enough guards available for that shift – this is truly a dangerous and under appreciated job!!! I’m sure many would love to be able to take (and use) vacation hours! But when they are called for ‘mandatory’ OT – that means another shift and NO time off! We don’t pay these guys/gals enough for working on the front lines!! (If you think it’s so cushy, apply with Corrections and try to become a C/O!)

  5. CO's Suck says:

    There are no bigger crooks than CCPOA and the Unions…It will all change soon, thankfully!!! and BTW – You’re not a cop…your a cop flunkie!

    1. LOCK IT UP! says:

      spoken like a true inmate….sad to say but, you can call CO’s what you want, but the reality is that your either a scared little boy or girl who could even hold my jock strap or an inmate/inmate lover. Why don’t you send me your email address so we can hook up so I can show you how much a flunky CO’s really are. Coward!!!

      1. chachi211 says:

        Another dumb C/o with a mouth! choke on your new found wealth!

      2. Matt Brewer says:

        SURE THING LOCK IT UP!!! I’ll take that invite anytime!!!! YOU FLUNKY COWARD!!!

      3. chachi211 says:

        You really have showen how dumb you really are it just fuels the fire of my out rage to this injustice! Go ahead and make your idle threats! youan then join your fellow inmates on the right side of the bars!

  6. screen guy says:

    I know several c/o and everyone of them is a looser, seriously.

  7. Just Wondering says:

    Is a looser like a loser, seriously?

  8. tylersdad2 says:

    All you DAM INMATE LOVERS make me SICK! Dont blame the guards, they didnt put your loved ones in prison..

  9. flameforjustice says:

    Put the blame where it rightfully belongs at the feet of state goverment leader(s),and the unions.

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