Union at Developmental Center endorses new contract

The union representing 667 state-employed workers at the Sonoma Devlopmental Center has voted to accept a new labor contract agreement with the Schwarzenegger administration.

Statewide, 96 percent of the membership of the California Association of Psychiatric Technicians approved a deal that offers members protection from minimum-wage pay and furlough days, restores overtime for state holidays, and grants a five percent raise in 2012.

The CAPT is one of several unions that represent SDC employees. Its members have been working without a contract for nearly two years.

“The way the economy is, it’s a good contract,” said Circe Bisby, a SDC senior psychiatric technician and president of the union office. “I don’t think we gave up a lot. I think we came out pretty well.”

For their part, CAPT members agree to accept one unpaid work day per month for a year – effectively a five percent pay cut — and increase contributions to their pension plan by five percent.

The contract is back loaded, said CAPT spokesman Ken Murch. The state will save 10 percent the first year of the deal, but those savings will be neutralized by employee gains in year two. “By then we hope everything will be level,” he said.
Murch said the pact was “concessionary,” but “with this contract our members are stepping forward and doing their part.”
“Our people are not blind to the budget process,” Murch said. “They see the pressure to cut operating costs. They live it day to day.”

The furlough policy has been a contentious point. Union members were subject to state furloughs but, given the 24-hour needs of facilities like the developmental center, usually unable to use them.

The union sued the state over the policy but lost the case.

Under the new contract, CAPT members will be immune to any future furlough policy imposed on state employees. The trade off, in the form of one unpaid day per month, is for Bisby a good bet. “Better one day off a month than three,” she said.

The union and state reached the tentative contract agreement June 14. The agreement was then sent out to CAPT members for a ratification vote, which was announced Tuesday.

It now must be approved by the legislature with at least a two-thirds vote. While not legally binding, the tentative agreement makes passage extremely likely. Once approved, the governor has promised to sign the contract into law.
“As long as they vote it in, we’re good,” Bisby said.

 Members of the CAPT include psychiatric technicians, senior psychiatric technicians and psychiatric technician assistants. Uniquely specialized in caring for people with developmental disabilities and mental illnesses, these licensed and certified nursing professionals provide a broad range of medical 
and therapeutic care to thousands of Californians in the state’s developmental centers, state hospitals and prisons.

“The agreement reflects our state’s realities while preserving our state’s staffing and services for Californians with developmental disabilities and mental illnesses,” said CAPT State President Tony Myers.  


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