“TheQuestions swirl around Jerry Brown’s attack plan to cut state workers’ hours-SEIU 1000 Officials May Go For If For More Dues Paying Members
Questions swirl around Jerry Brown’s plan to cut state workers’ hours
PUBLISHED WEDNESDAY, MAY. 16, 2012
One day after Gov. Jerry Brown proposed sweeping changes to state government work schedules, many employees were still deciphering what it means for them.
Brown wants to move most of California’s 214,000 workers to four-day workweeks and 9.5-hour shifts starting July 1. The change would reduce state workers’ hours and pay by 5 percent each month and cut state payroll by about $839 million, $401 million of it from the deficit-ridden general fund. Many departments would be closed on Fridays, some on Mondays.
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions from reader emails and comments on sacbee.com:
>So now what?
Marty Morgenstern, the Brown administration’s Labor and Economic Development Agency secretary, said the state will meet with departments and labor union officials to hammer out the particulars.
Look for those talks to heat up immediately, because Brown wants the new arrangements in place in time for the July 1 start of the 2012-13 fiscal year.
>Are the unions going for it?
It’s difficult to make a blanket characterization: A dozen unions represent 181,000 state workers divided into 21 bargaining units who perform thousands of different jobs.
But it’s clear that labor had a hand in shaping the proposal. For example, Brown’s budget also calls for cutting back on outside contracts for services such as janitorial and security work and computer technology consultants.
SEIU Local 1000, the largest state worker union, has argued for years that California pays too much for those kinds of vendor service contracts. Of course, ending that outsourcing would mean more jobs for state employees who are covered by the union.
By giving SEIU what it wants, it raises the likelihood that the 95,000-member union will go along with Brown’s furlough plan and make it harder for the other smaller unions to resist.
>State workers are all under contract right now. Doesn’t this violate those agreements?
Brown says he wants to honor the bargaining process, but that doesn’t mean that the contracts would need to be reopened. The changes could be enacted through short side-letter agreements that focus on the scheduling changes and nothing else.
>How long would the state run on the four-day schedule and cut employees’ pay?
Finance Department spokesman H.D. Palmer said the arrangement “could extend beyond the 2012-13 year.” That’s a detail that the administration needs to hammer out with the unions.
>What leverage does Brown have?
The governor could lay off employees, but that seems a stretch, given that the state already has shed 15,000 positions in 2012-13 and Brown anticipates cutting another 11,000 in the coming fiscal year. The layoff process is cumbersome, too, and Brown needs savings quickly to plug a $15.7 billion deficit.
Brown’s hand could be strengthened if Democratic legislators signal they’re willing to use their authority to circumvent labor contracts and impose pay cuts or furloughs if the unions don’t cooperate.
>Would Democrats really do that to their friends in organized labor?
Under severe budget pressure in 2009, the Legislature erased two paid state holidays and changed overtime rules without the unions’ consent. Nearly two years ago, the threat of legislative action on pension reform prodded labor leaders to compromise with then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
>Would union members vote on the schedule changes? What’s the Legislature’s role?
Union leaders wouldn’t have to put a scheduling agreement to a vote unless their bylaws, policies or processes mandate it. State law doesn’t require it.
The state doesn’t have a list of which unions would require a vote and which don’t. Several unions contacted by The Bee said they haven’t yet decided whether they would put a 5 percent cut in hours and pay or any other concessions to a vote.
Regardless, whatever agreements Brown reaches with the unions won’t take effect without Legislative approval.
>What about employees at 24/7 facilities such as prisons and state hospitals?
There are plenty of unanswered questions about how the state would cut work hours and pay for prison officers, Highway Patrol officers, psychiatric technicians, nurses, doctors and attorneys and other workers who don’t adhere to a 9-to-5, Monday through Friday schedule.
Their unions might offer up alternative ways to make similar savings, such as higher employee payments to health insurance or pension funds. Brown is open to just about any idea that reaches his payroll savings goal.
>Managers and supervisors aren’t represented by a union. What will happen to their schedules?
The state usually gives excluded employees the same terms bargained with the unions. Someone supervising SEIU members usually gets the SEIU deal.
That will happen here, Labor Secretary Morgenstern said, although it’s possible that the highest-paid supervisors and managers would take a bigger pay hit than 5 percent. The administration hasn’t defined that group yet.
>Are legislators going to take a pay cut, too? They got us into this mess.
Pay for legislators, the governor and other elected state officials is set by the California Citizens Compensation Commission. They’ve taken a 20 percent pay hit in the last few years and lost their state-paid vehicles.
The Legislature controls its staff salaries, which are paid from its general-fund-fed budget. California’s two university systems directly negotiate with their employees, so Brown’s plan doesn’t directly affect them, either.