Staff and Wire Reports
Created: 10/19/2011 04:48:30 PM PDT

As California’s massive prison and parole department begins an historic downsizing to cut costs and comply with court orders, it’s getting a hand from organized labor.

The California Correctional Peace Officers Association and five other unions have signed contract amendments for Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation employees that set aside some job protections, drastically cut employees’ state-paid moving allowances and aim to reduce prison officer overtime costs.

The state estimates the deals will save about $13 million for the current fiscal year, compared with the traditional layoff process. In exchange, unions hope fewer workers will lose their jobs as Corrections shifts some of its responsibilities to local government. That process started Oct. 1, aiming to cut the state’s prison and parole costs over several years.

“On paper, it saves a little bit, but what it does is protect those jobs,” said Assemblyman Curt Hagman, R-Chino Hills. “We’re spending hundreds of millions transferring corrections inmates to the counties, but we should be saving money in the state corrections system as well.”

By September, the state’s 63,000-employee prison and parole agency had issued more than 2,100 warning notices, the first wave of several to come.

Although the state and the unions say the agreements are a plus for employees and their employer, some are unhappy that they may have to uproot.

CCPOA spokesman JeVaughn Baker said Tuesday the concessions aren’t “ideal” and acknowledged that some union members are upset at the prospect of moving to remote facilities around the state.

“However, we also understand that CDCR is downsizing,” Baker said, “and it is better for our members to relocate than to be jobless in this struggling economy.”

Ron Yank, who heads Gov. Jerry Brown’s Department of Personnel Administration, said that the agreements are a “win-win” for the government and its employees.

“We the state will save millions of dollars by moving people from places we don’t need them to places where we’re understaffed,” Yank said in Tuesday telephone interview. “The employees get certainty in uncertain economic times.”

Of the 21 bargaining units that negotiate contracts for state employees, 18 represent workers toiling in prisons and parole offices, from correctional officers and parole officers to cooks and custodians.

“It’s good for everybody all the way around. It protects our folks from getting laid off in one area of the state and the state from having overtimes and vacancies in another part oft he state,” said Joe Baumann, the association’s chapter president at the California Rehabilitation Center in Norco. “They way that they did their plan, we don’t have to worry about somebody in Norco getting laid off.

Bargaining units representing state attorneys, engineers and scientists haven’t yet signed new agreements.

Yank said he expects they will ink deals “soon.”

To read entire story, click here.