State To Raise Salaries for 6,500 Mental Health Workers
The state has agreed to raise salaries for about 6,500 mental health workers in an effort to fill vacancies at state facilities and help compete with wages offered by state prisons, the Sacramento Bee reports.
The raises will be retroactive to April and will take effect once Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) signs legislation approved by lawmakers. The increase is expected to cost taxpayers more than $60 million annually.
A federal court last year ordered steep pay increases for prison medical workers, prompting vacancies from similar positions at other state agencies.
The Department of Mental Health, Department of Developmental Services and Department of Veterans Affairs all reported vacancies as workers left for higher wages at state prisons.
However, state officials argue that the agencies must raise salaries to match those offered by prisons or face dangerous staff shortages at mental hospitals and facilities for veterans and the developmentally disabled.
David Kline, spokesperson for the California Taxpayers' Association, said, "If we have gotten to the point where government agencies are in a bidding war to retain the same employees, taxpayers are going to lose that war every time."
Union officials, meanwhile, argue that nurses working at mental health facilities also deserve higher wages and are doing the same type of work as workers who qualified for the raises (Lin, Sacramento Bee, 9/17).