Judge: California Prison Guards Can't Be Furloughed

fromKQED

A state superior court judge has ruled against Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's furlough order for the state's prison guards. At issue was a furlough policy that was implemented earlier this year to save the state money.

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California prison guards are celebrating a court ruling. It says they cannot have their salaries cut like other state workers. The fight has been over the furlough policy aimed at saving the state money.

John Myers of member station KQED reports.

JOHN MYERS: For most rank-and-file employees of the state of California, the policy is simple. Three Fridays every month, they stay home, amounting to a loss of 14 percent of their salary. But for prison guards, it hasn't been as simple. Their jobs have been deemed vital to public safety, which means the furlough days must be used later like vacation days.

The union for correctional law officers argued in court that many of those days off would expire before ever being used. In other words, they argued California prison guards are essentially doing the same amount of work for less pay. And on Thursday, a state judge agreed. A spokesperson for Governor Schwarzenegger, Rachel Arizola(ph) says the state will appeal.

Ms. RACHEL ARIZOLA (Spokesperson for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger): The furloughs apply to over 200,000 state employees. And again, the governor had to make this difficult but necessary decision as the state dealt with a $60 billion deficit over the last year.

MYERS: If the ruling stands, it's estimated as many as 25,000 employees of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation would have to be paid for all hours worked. That could mean an extra cost of millions of dollars for a state that faces yet another huge budget deficit, as much as $21 billion by the summer of 2011.

For NPR News, I'm John Myers in Sacramento.

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