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State workers get $516M in bonus pay
Many California state employees received a boost this year after complaining of furloughs and salary cuts during the recession, with some of the largest bargaining units agreeing to raises of 2 to 3 percent annually over the next few years.
But even as their unions were criticizing the unpaid days off, thousands of state workers continued to collect hundreds of millions of dollars a year in contractually negotiated bonuses and other types of extra payments, on top of overtime and regular pay raises, according to a review by The Associated Press.
The add-ons have been part of the state's compensation system for decades, and the costs have been rising steadily in the last five years.
The total cost reached $516 million in 2012, up from $373 million in 2008. The money was distributed among 95,705 employees who took on special duties or skills affiliated with their jobs, according to five years of California pay records for 250,000 state employees requested by the AP. The costs have gone up in part because of dozens of new categories the state was required to add by federal court receivers overseeing the state's troubled prison system.
The average payout in 2012 was $5,382 per employee for those who received extra pay, a 17 percent increase over the previous year and a 39 percent increase from five years earlier. The most extra pay received by one worker was nearly $531,000 for a senior psychiatrist at a state mental hospital, nearly double his annual salary.
The payouts have been part of collective bargaining for many years, but some categories seem to reward work or skills that are part of the job the employee was hired to do.
California has more than 325 types of special pay for a range of skills, certifications or benchmarks. The category includes bonuses, incentive pay, retention pay and pay differentials. The money is awarded for such things as knowing multiple languages, holding a college degree, riding a motorcycle on the job or, in some cases, just for sticking around.
State workers also can receive special pay for obtaining a credential, driving the office carpool, taking dictation or working on deadline. Some examples include: — A $1,000 bonus for parking attendants at the state Department of Food and Agriculture, a perk negotiated by the Teamsters Union. — $1,600 a year in "fitness incentive pay" for prison guards and psychiatric facility workers for submitting to a physical exam. — A 20 percent bonus for CalPERS investment managers who have been with the department for at least a year.