Over the last year, state employees have been forced to take days off every month, without pay. By implementing this plan, Gov. Schwarzenegger intended to save our state $1.2 billion, or so he thought.
LA Times writer Patrick McGreevy’s March 6 article entitled, “Overtime pay may be putting a dent in state’s furlough savings,” introduced some stunning facts about state employees raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars in overtime pay.
McGreevy mentioned prison nurse Nellie Larot, as an example. Because of the furlough days, $10,000 was cut out of her salary last year, bringing her wage down to $92,000.
McGreevy went on to say that Larot worked extra shifts, resulting in $177,512 worth of overtime pay, thus bringing her total income for 2009 to $270,000. Now that’s overtime!
Larot tripled her salary by working more shifts and still had three unpaid days off each month last year. It would be like looking for a needle in a haystack to find a private sector business that operates like that, especially with salary figures that high.
One might ask what Larot does as a prison nurse. According to the McGreevy’s piece, Larot works for the Department of Corrections Deuel Vocational Institution in Tracy, Calif.
McGreevy wrote, in a quotation from a spokesman for the California Prison Healthcare Receivership, “She ‘legitimately earned’ her overtime with much of it spent overseeing newly admitted prison inmates on suicide watch.”
The state of California just paid a prison nurse $270,000 last year to watch prisoners, in an attempt to prevent them from killing themselves. That’s disturbing. What’s worse is that Larot is not the only employee soaking up this much overtime.
McGreevy also said in his article, “The top 50 overtime recipients each received over $100,000 in extra compensation.” Who knows how many more state employees make close to $100,000 in overtime and are not in the top 50.
Obviously, for some positions, furloughs mean absolutely nothing. If some state employees are subject to furlough days, but allowed to work extra shifts, what’s the point of the furloughs in the first place?
McGreevy said in the article that some occupations require someone to be on duty 24 hours a day, seven days per week.
To alleviate the furlough days and potential fatigue from working so many hours, why wouldn’t the state look into hiring an additional nurse for Larot’s occupation, so she wouldn’t have a need to work so many more hours.
If there was an additional nurse in that position, the state would pay both Larot and the other nurse their original salaries of about $100,000 per year. This would save the state roughly $70,000 and create another job, thus putting food on another table.
When Larot was accused of taking advantage of the system by working so many more hours, she said, “I don’t know why people are complaining about the overtime. We work for the overtime. I don’t think it’s anybody’s business.”
What Nurse Larot fails to understand is that people are complaining about the overtime because our state’s bank accounts are overdrawn and what little money is left is almost always spent incorrectly and inefficiently.
And yes, Nurse Larot, it most certainly is our business.