Tuesday, July 6, 2010 • Furloughs may end, but correctional staff remains up in the air

Publisher’s note: This story originally appeared in the Tuesday, July 6, 2010, edition of the Lassen County Times.

Lassen County’s correctional officers — and other employees across the state — may return the their normal hours June 30 when the state’s furlough program ends, but the state’s current budget impasse remains and so does the employment uncertainty among the state’s correctional officers.

According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, state government officials continue to negotiate with unions to avert a possible budget impasse and a mandate to pay state workers the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. California’s minimum wage is $8 per hour.

The CDCR reports the governor’s budget contains four proposals aimed at reducing the state’s employee compensation costs — a wage cut, one day per month of unpaid leave, increased employee contributions to pensions and a cap on the state’s workforce.

The governor may order a continuation of the furloughs if he finds the state faces a fiscal and cash crisis.

According to the White v. Davis California Supreme Court decision in 2003, the state controller is prohibited from paying state workers beyond what is required by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. Absent a state budget, state workers could be paid a maximum of $7.25 per hour.

The CDCR reports four unions have reached tentative contract agreements with the state and would not be subject to the federal minimum wage payments or any new furloughs.

Those unions represent California Highway Patrol officers, firefighters, psychiatric technicians and some medical professionals.

Spokespersons for the California Correctional Center and High Desert State Prison said no one knows what’s going to happen at this point, and everyone will have to wait and see how the budget process works itself out before anyone knows how the situation eventually will be resolved.