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Union says overtime hours at PDC skyrocket
Hundreds of psychiatric technicians at the Porterville Developmental Center have accumulated massive amounts of overtime, according to new statistics that one union says cost taxpayers up to $180,000 in November alone.
The California Association of Psychiatric Technicians (CAPT) found that its 759 local members worked 5,900 hours of overtime in November—a 257 percent increase since September.
The state-run hospital for the severely mentally disabled is grappling with maintaining a staff-to-client ratio while implementing unpaid furloughs.
“This is a big concern for us,” CAPT consultant Brady Oppenheim said. “Our concern is for the taxpayers who are having to foot the bill.”
This summer, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger trimmed $425 million from the state’s budget shortfall by mandating that state workers had to take off three days of every month without pay through June 30, 2010. PDC, because it is a 24-hour facility, follows an exception: employees work without pay and bank their furlough leave credits for a later date.
PDC administration and CAPT agree that it is difficult to maintain that ratio while implementing the furloughs.
In August, when overtime hours cost about $45,000 a month, Executive Director John Sawyer said that PDC administration was following the state’s orders. He said the mandates were difficult to adhere to, because time off affects the quality of services provided to clients.
Saywer declined to comment for this article. The Department of Developmental Services did not immediately return phone calls or e-mails.
Oppenheim also credits the surge in overtime hours to the layoff of 60 temporary union members who could have worked to cover permanent employee absences, and a hiring freeze. Local CAPT members, typically clad in red shirts, have protested the hiring freeze many times along West Morton Avenue and outside the PDC.
“The governor is not looking at how his cuts are affecting [the developmental centers,]” Oppenheim said.
The PDC is one of 21 developmental centers statewide that provide a myriad of services, such as specialized health care and recreational opportunities, to people with medical or behavioral program needs. Admission to one of the facilities requires either a formal determination that an individual meets stringent admission criteria, or a court order.
According to a report by the Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes, the level-of-care staff in state developmental centers and mental hospitals had accumulated 269,149 unpaid furlough hours by the end of August. The report, released in October, also found that the furloughs have failed to save the $108 million projected by the administration in the prison healthcare system, and paying overtime and hiring private workers to fill in for furloughed employees will more than offset any savings.
CAPT is seeking to lift the state’s hiring freeze at 24-hour facilities and the reduction or elimination of unpaid furloughs. The union’s lawsuit is scheduled for hearing Jan. 15.
Last week, a state judge ruled that Schwarzenegger’s unpaid furloughs on thousands of correctional officers violated labor and wage laws, and ordered the state to pay the prison workers for the unpaid hours they have worked.
The lawsuit was filed by the California Correctional Peace Officers Association.
This is the first such study completed by CAPT, but similar reports could be completed at other developmental centers in the future, according Oppenheim.
“Looking ahead, we probably will see similar results,” she said.
California is facing another deficit — $21 billion — in the new fiscal year starting July 1, 2010.
Contact Jenna Chandler at 784-5000, Ext. 1050, or firstname.lastname@example.org.