The reality of layoffs in the Calif. DOC

A combination of the recession, budget pressure, court action and political reality of realignment has taken its toll

Layoffs are actually going to happen at the end of this month. Even during the great depression California did not lay off "prison guards." Their salary was cut, but they didn't lose their jobs. A combination of the recession, budget pressure, court action and political reality of realignment has taken its toll.

On February 29 of this year a total of about 140 correctional officers and about 400 non-peace officers will lose their jobs. Most of the custody that are losing out are at Deuel Vocational Institution at Tracy and the California Institution for Men at Chino. DVI is getting hit hard due to the fact that it is now being restructured from a Reception Center operation to General Population. GP is much less staff intensive than is an RC operation. In addition the institution population is down about 1,300 inmates from a high of right around 4,000.

Fewer criminals means, to a large extent, fewer staff are needed to deal with them, regardless of other factors. I understand the large number of layoffs at Chino is due to the same cause. Realignment is putting far fewer criminals in state custody and far more in local custody.

Many of the staff that got layoff warning notices took voluntary job changes and accepted positions as Overtime Avoidance Pool (OTAP) or Permanent Intermittent Correctional Officer (PICO) staff. The OTAP officers are regular 40 hour-per-week jobs, with assigned days off, though not with an assigned job or even an assigned shift.

PICO officers do not have any guarantees, and if they do not work at least 11shifts per month they do not cover their health and welfare benefits and do not get seniority credit for that month. Many of those who took the OTAP or PICO jobs were required to relocate to get those jobs.

That state has paid some per diem to those who went to less desirable, high-vacancy institutions but there was no relocation package per se. Staff who have houses they can't sell are in a severe quandary. I have heard anecdotally of staff planning on getting together to rent apartments or small houses and commute home on weekends for some semblance of a normal family life.

There is a second round of institution based staff layoffs tentatively scheduled for this fall. In addition there will be a significant layoff of parole agents coming up. The current feeling is that the paperwork on the parole agent layoffs might start coming out in April.

As you can imagine morale is very, very low within the department right now. Parole agents feel (with some justification) that the union that represents them, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA) threw them under the bus by not making a significant push against the realignment program. Institution based staff recognize the reality that less inmates mean less staff positions but many believe that the union went along with the program way too easily.

Under the old rules seniority layoffs were statewide by seniority with the state paying relocation in case it was necessary for seniority bumping.

Under the current rules layoffs are by county only, which means no relocation package. The state will save a ton of money under this program, and therefore feel much freer to lay off people as the cost per layoff will be considerably reduced.

This bad feeling is somewhat accentuated by the Retired Annuitant program. This allows the state to hire retirees to continue working for up to 180 days per calendar year.

The program does save the state money as they pay no benefits, vacation, retirement, etc. for these employees. Both the Governor and the Agency Secretary have said that retired annuitants are no longer being used as they would have the effect of displacing non-retired workers, a prospect they said they regard as fundamentally unfair.

Unfortunately they were either wrong, or lied, depending on how you look at it. Many institutions still have retired annuitants taking jobs that regular, unretired staff could be filling.

Both the Department and the Union are still maintaining that there will be few if any actual layoffs. That will be cold comfort to a person who has to leave a full-time job and relocate at his/her expense to take a part-time job with no guarantee of work, seniority or health benefits and no guarantee that job won't disappear in six months.

A lot of staff feel they got dumped on by both the department and the union. That feeling will get worse before it gets better.

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