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ACSS Call with CalHR and Finance - No Federal Funds to Reverse Employee Compensation Cuts

Posted: 10/15/2020 Tags: budget COVID-19 policy representation salary Tags Views: 568

On October 14, ACSS joined CalHR Director Eraina Ortega and Chief Deputy Paul Starkey on a call with labor unions and employee organizations providing an update from Director of Finance Keely Bosler on the efforts to secure additional federal funding.

Triggers to Restore Employee Compensation Not Met

The 2020-2021 State Budget Act (AB 89) includes trigger language that would restore 18 categories of budget cuts if additional federal funds are available by October 15, 2020.

In a surprise to no one, Finance Director Bosler reported that no additional federal money was received by the deadline and therefore none of the Budget Act cuts will be restored.

Under Section 8.28 of the Budget Act, if $14 billion were received, the restored funding for employee compensation would add up to $1.89 billion which would end the PLP 2020 program (Section 3.90) and potentially restore the suspended general salary increases for state employees (Section 3.91). With receipt of federal funds by October 15 of more than $2 billion, but less than $14 billion, the restoration among the 18 budget categories would be proportional.

Although this means the PLP 2020 program will likely remain in place at least through the end of the budget year in June 2021, no additional state employee compensation cuts have been authorized by the Legislature.

Deficits Remain and Expenditures Up, but Budget Outlook Not as Dire as Projected in April 2020

Finance Director Bosler noted the Administration is continuing the effort to obtain needed federal funds as deficits are projected for the next few years. With any funds received after the October 15 Budget Act deadline, it is likely the Administration would work with the Legislature again to allocate those funds.

The Finance April 2020 economic forecast was bad, but thankfully was wrong with several months of revenue coming in higher than anticipated. At the same time expenditures related to wildfires have been higher than expected. While deficits will continue to be projected as the Governor’s 2021-2022 proposed budget is put together, they will be smaller deficits than originally projected.

There is no hard state hiring freeze as they want to continue to have flexibility to hire where needed. State departments will be getting instructions through a Finance budget letter to plan to reduce operating expenses by 5 percent for FY 21-22.


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Paychecks and a California Supreme Court Pension Ruling

Posted: 7/31/2020 Tags: benefits legislation pension policy representation retirement salary Tags Views: 1854

Pay Warrants

Not all of the July 1, 2020 adjustments and increases have made it into state employee pay warrants. Excluded employees related to the SEIU bargaining units (1, 3, 4, 11, 14, 15, 17, 20 and 21) will see the $260 health affordability payment in a separate pay warrant, which appears to be on track to issue within approximately two weeks.

As expected, the pay warrants of excluded employees related to IUOE units 12 and 13 contain the “OPEB/CERBT” deduction for prefunding retiree healthcare. We await the pay letter and differential providing pay to offset this deduction. ACSS also expects implementation of a special salary adjustment for employees in the criminalist series and an adjustment to longevity pay for some S07 and M07 excluded employees.

An error at the State Controller’s Office resulted in too little being withheld from July paychecks for the employee portion of the required contribution toward retirement. The amount of the error varies based on salary, but is estimated to be near $100 for the highest earners and less for other employees. Next month’s paychecks will have the correct amount deducted for retirement. Next month will also include an additional one time employee deduction labeled as “*PERS ADJ” to collect the rest of the July employee retirement contribution. This means that state employees will not likely see the “correct” amount of their take home pay checks until the September pay period.

There are a very small number of ACSS members who were excluded by CalHR from expected special salary adjustments. ACSS will continue to work with CalHR to address these exclusions and other issues arising in connection with salary adjustments.

Pension Ruling Preserves the Core of the “California Rule”

The California Supreme Court issued a unanimous ruling on July 30, 2020 in Alameda County Deputy Sheriff's Association v. Alameda County Employees’ Retirement Association. This significant pension case concerned pension cuts for local public employees following the Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act of 2013 (PEPRA) where overtime, callback and vacation pay were eliminated from pension calculations.

Although it is a local pension case, the legal issues concerned the long standing “California Rule.” Since 1955, the courts have held under the California Rule that once pension benefits are granted to a public employee, they are vested and cannot be modified for the duration of an employee’s career.

ACSS joined in the requests for the high court to hear this pension case to preserve the long-standing California Rule to protect from the possibility of your pension being changed by future legislation or through an initiative measure. With this California Supreme Court ruling, that goal was largely accomplished.

Although the court allowed the pension modifications challenged by the local unions, it did so by finding the changes closed loopholes to eliminate pension spiking. This narrow approach rejected the arguments to rescind or modify the California Rule and broadly allow changes to vested pension rights.

The ruling may present an opportunity for narrow pension modifications, but any modifications still have to meet stringent constitutional standards protected by the contracts clause. In short, the core defined benefit formulas and provisions governing state employee pensions and retirement calculations remain protected and unaffected by this decision.


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CalHR Issues Pay Letters and Pay Differentials Adjusting Pay

Posted: 7/17/2020 Tags: benefits budget COVID-19 legislation policy representation salary Tags Views: 3875

This week CalHR issued a series of Pay Letters and Pay Differentials adjusting pay for excluded employees. CalHR confirmed to ACSS that the expectation remains that the State Controller’s Office will implement the major changes with the July pay period. This means the next paychecks are expected to include the following:

Personal Leave Program 2020 – a reduction in pay of 9.23% (equivalent to two days’ pay) and accrual of 16 hours of personal leave credit, to be used in the same manner as vacation/annual leave and before any other paid leave (except sick leave).

Suspension of “OPEB/CERBT” Employee Contribution – excluded employees will not pay the contribution to prefund retiree healthcare. The contributions range generally from 2 percent to 4.6 percent of salary. Excluded employees related to bargaining units 12 and 13 will continue to see the deduction, but will receive a pay differential in an equivalent amount. (This pay differential has not yet issued, but is expected to be retroactive to July 1, 2020 if not implemented with the July pay warrant.)

Although General Salary Increases effective July 1, 2020 were suspended or deferred, Merit Salary Adjustments for employees not at the top step of their classifications are unaffected and will continue.

Exempt and Excluded Employees Associated with SEIU Bargaining Units (1, 3, 4, 11, 14, 15, 17, 20, and 21)

  • $260 per month taxable cash benefit to improve access and affordability of healthcare
  • Geographic Pay of $250 per month for employees working in Orange, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties
  • Special Salary Adjustments (generally 5%) for employees in nearly 100 classifications

>>Click here to review the Pay Letter listing the excluded employee classifications receiving the SSA increases.

Exempt and Excluded Employees Associated with Unit 18

  • A General Salary Increase of 2.75% retroactive to January 1, 2020
  • A Special Salary Adjustment at the top step of 2.5%, effective July 1, 2020 (S18 and M18 employees at the top step of the class for 12 months or more will receive the increase immediately; others will receive the increase through Merit Salary Adjustments when eligible)

As of today, ACSS awaits a Pay Letter implementing expected salary adjustments for S07 and M07 excluded employees related to the Criminalist series and changes to longevity pay, and a change to a pay differentials for DSH Police Officers and S16 and M16 employees for Continuing Medical Education expenses.

ACSS’ initial review has identified a few anomalies in the Special Salary Adjustments. We will pursue clarification and possible corrections or potential amendments to the Pay Letters with CalHR.


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Excluded Employee Compensation Plan for 2020-2021


The Department of Human Resources (CalHR) has released the outline of the excluded employee pay plan for the 2020-2021 fiscal year. We are pleased that the outline contains most of the items ACSS has advocated for in light of the Administration’s mandated state employee compensation decreases due to the large state budget deficits related to the ongoing pandemic.

The exempt and excluded pay plan effective July 1, 2020 includes:

  • Two day-per month Personal Leave Program (PLP) reducing compensation by 9.23% and providing 16 hours of leave credit per month. The PLP credit will not need to be used in the month it is accrued, but taken before other paid leave (except sick leave).
  • Suspending employee payments to pre-fund retiree health care. The deduction is shown on your pay warrant as “OPEB/CERBT”. The deductions for employees related to units 12 and 13 will continue, but be offset by a pay differential.
  • General Salary Increases are suspended.
  • Special Salary Adjustments and Pay Differentials will be extended to exempt and excluded employees where appropriate.
  • All employees related to the nine SEIU Local 1000 bargaining units (1, 3, 4, 11, 14, 15, 17, 20, and 21) will receive a $260 per month taxable cash benefit to offset health care costs.
  • The Vacation/Annual Leave Cap is increased by the amount of the PLP accrued for excluded employees related to bargaining units 2, 9, 10 and 19.

CalHR is working on pay letters to implement the details of the leave program and special salary and pay differential adjustments. CalHR expects to issue a series of pay letters “in the coming weeks” and has informed ACSS they are working with the State Controller’s Office to try to implement the majority of the salary adjustments in the July pay period.

As the pay letters are developed, ACSS will continue advocacy with CalHR to ensure excluded employees receive all appropriate special salary adjustments and pay differentials and will keep you informed regarding the expected timing of the pay adjustments.


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Excluded Employee Compensation Update – Personal Leave Program


The employee compensation reductions called for by the Governor and reflected in the state budget are coming into focus. The Legislature encouraged rank-and-file groups to agree to reductions through collective bargaining. Without those agreements, the Legislature would authorize employee compensation reductions. Two groups have reached agreement, including SEIU Local 1000 representing nine of the State’s 21 bargaining units and the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA), representing Bargaining Unit 6.

The Local 1000 agreement gives a road map to other bargaining units and sets the expectations for likely excluded employee compensation adjustments – a two-day per month “Personal Leave Program” offset in part by suspending the employee contribution to pre-fund retiree health care. This framework is consistent with the approach ACSS has advocated for in light of the excluded employee compensation reductions required by the recent COVID-19 related budget deficits being addressed by the revised state budget.

SEIU Local 1000 Agreement

The tentative agreement or “Side Letter” to modify the Local 1000 labor contract includes the following for rank-and-file employees:

  • Two day-per month Personal Leave Program (PLP) reducing compensation by 9.23% and providing 16 hours of leave credit per month for two years
  • Suspending employee payments to pre-fund retiree health care for two years; employees will not pay this contribution which would otherwise increase to 3.5% effective July 1, 2020
  • All employees will receive $260 per month to offset health care costs
  • Defers the 2.5% July 1, 2020 general salary increase for two years (the 2% increase scheduled for July 1, 2021 is not impacted)
  • Special Salary Adjustments (generally 5%) for 176 classifications of employees will still be paid effective July 1, 2020
  • If federal money is received and/or state budget revenue allows, the cuts and deferrals could end early

Under the PLP, employees work their full schedules. The reductions do not change salary ranges and do not impact benefits or retirement calculations. PLP credits do not count toward the vacation/annual leave cap and need to be used before other paid leave, except sick leave.

With the $260 per month and suspension of the retiree health contribution, the PLP reductions of 9.23% will be significantly mitigated for most employees. Some employees receiving special salary adjustments will still see small increases in their paychecks despite the PLP reductions.

What This Means for Excluded Employees

The Administration has made clear it intends to tie excluded employees to their related bargaining units in achieving salary savings. It is expected that other bargaining units will reach agreements for two-days of PLP, offset in part by suspending the employee contribution to pre-fund retiree health care.

CCPOA representing Bargaining Unit 6 (correctional officers) agreed to a one-day PLP and to different compensation reductions including holiday pay reductions and suspension of night and weekend shift differentials. It is not likely that other units will be able to find enough cost savings to meet the required reductions to avoid a second day of PLP.

ACSS has pushed for any compensation cuts for excluded employees to be offset in part by suspending the pre-funding of retiree health care. ACSS has also made clear to CalHR that the $260 per month health care affordability payment and the special salary adjustments must also be provided to all related excluded employees to avoid salary compaction issues.

With the SEIU Local 1000 Side Letter tentative agreement, we have reached out to CalHR to reiterate these requests and to also ensure that a fair package is in place for excluded employees not directly related to a bargaining unit. Should any rank-and-file unit not reach agreement and instead allow salary reductions to be imposed, ACSS will work to ensure that the reductions for related excluded employees are equitable.

As bills approving agreements reached by rank-and-file organizations are presented to the Legislature for approval, ACSS will continue its aggressive advocacy in protecting the employment interests of excluded employees. ACSS will also keep you informed with the latest information regarding your salaries and benefits.


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Excluded Employee Compensation Questions Remain Even as the Legislature Prepares to Pass a State Budget

Posted: 6/11/2020 Tags: bargaining legislation policy representation salary Tags Views: 3306

The State Budget continues to evolve as the Legislature and Governor continue negotiations, which include the details of possible pay raises along with reductions in state employee compensation.

With a legislative rule that bills must be in print for 72 hours, the Legislature on June 10, 2020 released the latest version of the State Budget in Senate Bill 808. The Legislature is expected to pass this version of the State Budget with votes on the June 15 constitutional deadline. What it means for excluded employee compensation is far from clear, and additional legislative action impacting state employee compensation outside the main State Budget bill remains likley.

Senate Bill 808 includes funding for the previously planned July 1, 2020 excluded employee salary increases and funding for raises included in bargaining unit labor contracts. While this is potentially good news, the possibility remains that the Governor could use his budget authority to remove this funding from the State Budget and not provide those July 1, 2020 pay raises to excluded employees.

With Senate Bill 808, the Legislature also expects that employee compensation will be reduced by approximately ten percent, to be achieved through collective bargaining and reductions for excluded employees. If those compensation decreases and savings are not in place by July 1, 2020, the Legislature “expects to pursue alternative legislative options” to authorize those reductions, presumably through a personal leave program or furloughs for excluded employees.

Also of concern, if additional federal funding is not obtained by September 1, 2020, trigger language may authorize additional employee compensation reductions beginning October 1, 2020. The details and intent of this language are uncertain.

With this framework, a lot will depend on collective bargaining and agreements to reduce compensation and the Governor’s action regarding the possible July 1, 2020 general salary increases and special salary adjustments.

ACSS’ legislative advocates and legal team are continuing to advocate for the interests of excluded employees. As “budget trailer bills” and bills approving any agreements reached by rank-and-file organizations are presented to the legislature for approval and funding, ACSS will continue its aggressive advocacy for excluded employees. While we await more clarity from the adoption of the final State Budget and any impacts from collective bargaining, ACSS will also continue advocacy with CalHR over salaries and the details of any temporary reductions to excluded employee compensation.


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Legislature’s Version of the State Budget Avoids Suspending Salary Increases and Delays Possible Salary Reductions

Posted: 6/5/2020 Tags: budget legislation legislature representation salary Tags Views: 3385

Legislative leadership has announced agreement between the Senate and Assembly on a legislative version of the 2020-2021 State Budget. The Legislature has proposed its own version of the budget modifying the Governor’s proposed May Revision budget. While there is still a long way to go before a final state budget agreement is reached, the “Legislature’s Version” of the budget differs from the Governor’s May Revision in significant ways concerning state employee compensation.

The Governor’s May Revision budget proposal would suspend all planned pay raises for July 1, 2020 and would also temporarily reduce employee compensation by 10 percent. The temporary cuts would be “triggered off” if federal money is received by the state.

The Legislature’s Version instead assumes that congress will pass an economic stimulus package, noting there is “growing confidence” that federal funds will be received. If the federal funds are not received by September 1, 2020, trigger cuts for employee compensation would be authorized effective October 1, 2020. The details of the proposed employee compensation reduction authority are not yet published in bill form.

The Legislature’s Version notes that it “excludes proposed savings related to employee pay and suspending employee pay increases.” If this version of the budget were adopted, it would not authorize the Administration to furlough state employees or cut pay. It is uncertain whether the Governor could (or would) take action through the state budget process to suspend the planned July 1, 2020 salary increases. The Legislature also notes that state employee unions are being asked to agree to cost saving reductions through the collective bargaining process. The results of collective bargaining could also impact compensation for related excluded employees.

The Legislature’s Version of the state budget has not been published in bill form. The details of the employee compensation sections of the budget will matter. Negotiations between the Legislature and the Governor over the treatment of state employee compensation will continue with a budget resolution expected by the June 15 constitutional deadline. ACSS’ legislative advocates will be there to continue to protect the interests of excluded employees.


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ACSS Seeks to Mitigate Impact of Employee Compensation Reduction Proposals

Posted: 5/22/2020 Tags: benefits COVID-19 legislation policy representation salary Tags Views: 3815

As the state budget moves forward in the next few weeks, it is very likely that excluded employee compensation reductions and a delay of anticipated salary increases will be part of the budget solutions.

While ACSS cannot collectively bargain over these proposed reductions, the Administration’s planned salary reductions cannot be achieved without legislative approval. ACSS is therefore taking active steps to mitigate the impact of reductions through the legislative process and with CalHR. Mitigating the reductions includes:

  • Avoid Straight Cuts in Pay 
    If salary has to be reduced, it should be through a temporary furlough or personal leave program that provides leave in exchange for the salary reduction and does not change salary ranges, nor negatively impact retirement calculations.

  • Flexibility in a Furlough Program 
    If excluded employees are furloughed, there must be flexibility for supervisors and managers to continue meeting the workload with reduced staff. ACSS is requesting that CalHR implement the program in a way that allows maximum flexibility for excluded employees by not requiring the leave be used in the same month it is accrued.

  • Suspend Employee Contributions to Pre-fund Retiree Health Care 
    Each month excluded employees have a deduction labeled “CERBT” which stands for California Employers’ Retiree Benefit Trust. This deduction is to pay the employee share of pre-funding retiree health care. Most ACSS members are scheduled to pay between 3.5 to 4.5 percent of salary per month. Suspending the payment for at least the duration of the salary reductions will mitigate the reduction in take home salary with no impact on eligibility for health care benefits in retirement.

  • Health Care Affordability Payment 
    SEIU Local 1000 negotiated a $260 per month payment for employees enrolled in a health plan. ACSS asked that this payment be provided to all excluded employees. The current proposal is to allow the $260 per month payment to go forward July 1, 2020 for both SEIU rank-and-file employees and related excluded employees.

    For some ACSS members, suspending the retiree health care deduction and providing the $260 per month would almost completely offset the salary reduction of a two-day furlough. For others, getting one or both would partially offset the temporary salary reduction.

  • Federal Trigger Language 
    The Administration is proposing that the salary reduction authority would end if federal money is received. While this is positive, the details have not been developed. ACSS will push for language to directly address the impact of federal funding on excluded employees.

  • Salary Adjustments 
    Most ACSS members were scheduled for general salary increases and thousands anticipated special salary adjustments (SSA) July 1, 2020. The Administration is proposing no increases. While the treatment of delaying these raises will certainly be impacted by rank-and-file bargaining, it needs to be acknowledged that SSAs were planned to address recruitment and retention issues. Delaying these increases, and exacerbating recruitment and retention problems by cutting pay, will almost certainly lead to more attrition through retirement. The SSAs need to be paid as soon as possible to address likely retention issues.

ACSS is aware that other groups have proposed retirement incentives as a cost saving measure and that nothing in the Administration’s current proposals address incentives for those excluded employees providing front line COVID-19 response. If there is room to advocate on these issues, ACSS will do so through the state budget deliberative process and with CalHR.

We will keep you apprised as these significant budget decisions and proposed reductions move forward.


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CA Budget Deficit a Direct Result of Coronavirus Pandemic

Posted: 5/18/2020 Tags: budget COVID-19 salary Tags Views: 1308

Governor Gavin Newsom appeared on “State of the Union”, a televised CNN program, on Sunday to discuss the COVID-19 Pandemic and the effect on the California economy. During the interview, Governor Newsom said that “the nearly $54 billion budget deficit the state is facing is a direct result of the impact from the coronavirus pandemic and not because of existing financial troubles.”

In January, Newsom projected a surplus after paying off 100% of inherited debts and pay down long-term financial obligations. However, last week Newsom revealed a revised budget deficit of $54 billion, affecting state worker’s salaries and many other state-funded programs.

Newsom, along with other western states, has asked Congress to send more financial aid to state governments. “We are not looking for charity. … It is incumbent upon the federal government to help support these states through difficult times.

Click here to read the full CNN article.


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State Budget Deficit Leads to Employee Compensation Reduction Proposals as Part of the May Revise

Posted: 5/14/2020 Tags: budget COVID-19 legislation pension policy salary Tags Views: 8516

In response to a state revenue reduction of over 30 percent, the Administration is proposing a number of costs savings measures including reductions in employee compensation of 10% from June 2020 levels and proposed reductions in state operations costs (office space, leases, travel, and procurement).

The plans were outlined to labor representatives yesterday in connection with today’s release of the Governor’s “May Revision” to the state budget proposal. CalHR Director Eraina Ortega and Deputy Director Paul Starkey held a call this morning with ACSS Executive Director Rocco Paternoster and ACSS attorney Gerald James to discuss the proposals and impacts for excluded employees.

As part of the budget process, the Administration is seeking to “pull back” all salary increases (general salary increases and special salary adjustments) scheduled for July 1, 2020 for excluded employees and rank-and-file employees. They will also seek authority to reduce employee compensation by 10% effective July 1, 2020.

CalHR will attempt to negotiate the 10% reductions with each rank-and-file bargaining unit. If agreements cannot be reached with those units, the authority sought from the Legislature would allow CalHR to impose two days of unpaid furloughs per month, which would result in a 9.24% salary reduction, on state employees effective July 1, 2020. As of this morning, CalHR intends to link employee compensation reductions for supervisors and managers with their related bargaining units.

To mitigate the impact of any compensation reductions, the state is also considering a pause on state employees paying to prefund retiree healthcare. If passed by the Legislature, relief from excluded employees paying this “OPEB” contribution would range from 4.6% of salary to 1.4% of salary (for the highest paid state employees). ACSS realizes this does not come near offsetting the proposed reduction in take home pay, but it is a helpful mitigating step.

The proposed reductions are based on current economic projections from the Administration. The Legislature makes its own economic projections. The budget authority sought by the Administration will include a provision that if additional federal funding is received (related to the pandemic), these employee compensation reductions can be revisited.

While the employee compensation reduction plan will likely be impacted by bargaining conducted by the rank-and-file bargaining units, ACSS has already begun discussions with CalHR over the details related to excluded employees. ACSS will also seek to ensure that the authority to reduce compensation provided by the Legislature to CalHR is done in a manner that protects the interests of excluded employees as best as possible by ensuing compensation decreases are equitable. We will keep you apprised as these significant budget decisions and proposed reductions move forward.


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