SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger imposed a new contract on more than 30,000 California correctional officers after union leadership failed to accept the administration’s final contract offer.
Prior to the governor’s decision, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association attempted to circumvent the Schwarzenegger administration and end the bitter labor dispute by persuading state lawmakers to extend the work agreement that was in place through legislative action. However, the bill, which would also have granted workers a pay increase of almost 10 percent, came to the assembly floor in the final moments of the current legislative session but failed to garner sufficient legislative support.
The administration’s imposition of a contract on state correctional officers means state lawmakers will have to deal with the matter when they return for the new legislative session.
The state has the authority to unilaterally impose new contract terms if the union formally rejects a contract offer, and the state legislature is bound by law to approve the three-year contract, which is projected to cost taxpayers $735 million, officials say.
The administration’s contract offer includes a 5 percent pay increase for correctional officers in each of the next three years, and improvements in worker benefits.
The contract impasse has unfolded as the state correctional system remains in crisis with chronic overcrowding, under staffing, federal intervention and the threat of prison population caps.
Under their current contract, state correctional officers earn a baseline salary of more than $70,000. Overtime pay can almost double that figure, officials say. The terms of the current contract also index correctional officer salaries to those of California Highway Patrol officers, a practice that would end under the Schwarzenegger proposal.
Officials estimate that correctional officers will earn approximately $2,500 per month less than CHP officers by the end of the new three-year contract. Correctional union leaders warn pay differentials of that magnitude will severely hinder the system’s ability to attract and keep staff, which could create more problems for the system.