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Judge favors CCPOA on furloughs, Gov plans appeal

The Schwarzenegger administration plans an immediate appeal of a court decision blocking the forced furloughs of prison correctional officers, a ruling that could have an impact on the strapped state budget.

The decision, if it stands, would affect about 25,000 state correctional employees, according to an analysis of the state Department of Finance, which writes the governor’s budgets.

Alameda Court Judge Frank Roesch ruled Thursday that the administration’s furloughs violated state law by, in effect, forcing employees to work unpaid hours. Prisons are required to be staffed 24-7 and unlike many state departments, there is little flexibility to participate in “self-directed” furlloughs. The correctional officers were working ther hours and banking the time off.

“It’s enormously complex. You’re not just dealing with the time that was taken from the member in lieu of pay, you must calculate the work on an overtime rate,” said Lance Corcoran of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, which brought the court challenge.

Schwarzenegger spokesman Rachel Arrezola said the administration would quickly appeal Roesch’s ruling.

“The governor does not believe that state workers should be shielded from the same economic realities that every California family and business is facing,” she said.

 

There was no immediate estimate of the potential fiscal impact of the ruling, either from the officers’ union or the administration.

But in papers filed this week in U.S. District Court under the Fair Labor Standards Act, CCPOA said it estimated that nearly 2.4 million furlough hours had been worked but unpaid at Corrections during the past two years. That translates into about $84 million at the average pay of $35 per hour, Corcoran said.

“But that number is a floor, not a ceiling,” he said.

Financially, the decision could not come at a worse time. The administration is in the midst of putting the final touches on the 2010-11 state budget, which will be unveiled next month. Filing the appeal would delay any implementation of Roesch’s ruling pending a final resolution of the case on appeal — a move which would give the administration breathing room.

A Sacramento County Superior Court judge earlier ruled against CCPOA in a similar case, and a number of other lawsuits from public employee unions are pending in various courts.

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