SACRAMENTO, CA – The union representing most California state prison guards said Wednesday it has agreed to a labor contract that includes a 9 percent salary increase over three years.
Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration said the agreement includes concessions he sought last year to help reduce the state’s long-term costs of providing retirees’ health care benefits.
Correctional officers would start paying toward their eventual benefits under the proposed contract.
Officers hired after Jan. 1, 2017, would also have to wait longer for their benefits and would receive reduced health care coverage for themselves and their dependents when they retire.
The tentative agreement calls for a 3 percent increase once the agreement is ratified by the union’s 29,000 members, California Correctional Peace Officers Association spokeswoman Nichol Gomez-Pryde said. Other 3 percent hikes would follow over the next two years.
Correctional officers would also get more money if they work in remote prisons. An incentive for remaining physically fit would be eliminated, with the $130 a month incentive automatically going into officers’ base pay.
The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said base salary for guards currently starts at $63,000 annually and can range to nearly $80,000. Officers can earn more than $100,000 a year with overtime at the state’s 34 prisons.
Michael Genest, a fiscal consultant who served four years as budget director for former Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said the changes in retiree benefits should result in substantial long-term savings to the state.
He praised Brown, a Democrat, for trying to control spending but said the salary increases mean taxpayers will continue to see little savings from a restructuring of the criminal justice system that sharply reduced the state prison population in recent years.
“I’d say, why are we giving raises at all, from a taxpayers’ perspective,” Genest said. “There’s no evidence that our pay scales are such that we can’t attract an adequate workforce, quite the contrary.”
Gomez-Pryde and the administration said the proposal is fair but could not immediately say how much it would cost taxpayers.
The deal must be approved by state lawmakers and union members before taking effect.