Friday, August 22, 2003

Arbiter rules
youth prison should
stop forced overtime

A youth corrections officer at the Hawaii Youth Correctional Center in Kailua worked 156 hours straight, logging about $4,000 in overtime in a single week's time, according to a recently released arbitration award and decision against the state.

The arbitrator has ordered an end to involuntary overtime beyond 16 hours on the job.

The 156-hour (6 1/2-day) overtime stint logged by supervising youth corrections officer Alton Lorico was one of 56 times between November 2001 and April 2002 he was required to remain at his post or face disciplinary action, the report said.

On other occasions, Lorico worked stints of 126 and 88 consecutive hours, according to a grievance filed by the United Public Workers union that resulted in an Aug. 5 arbitration award won by the union.

Arbitrator Russell Higa recognized the state's problems in addressing the staffing at the youth facility where juvenile offenders are confined for punishment or for public safety.

However, he ordered that the officers no longer be required to work more than 16 consecutive hours, unless they agree to do so because some employees want the extra pay.

"The employer (state) is literally caught between a rock and a hard place," Higa said. "While the arbitrator recognizes the employer's statutory obligation to provide public safety and the secure placement of wards at the facility, the employer cannot justify the implementation of a policy that compromises the health and safety of YCOs as well as the safety of wards on the ground that this is the only means by which this obligation can be met."

Sharon Agnew, executive director of the Office of Youth Services in the Department of Human Services, which operates the facility, said she agreed with Higa's findings and "is making every effort to comply" in a comprehensive manner.

Higa's order that no one work more than two consecutive eight-hour shifts is being implemented through a plan that has been submitted to the UPW for consideration, she said.

Agnew's office is talking with county officials and Family Court officials in seeking alternatives to incarceration of juvenile offenders, especially on the neighbor islands where alternative programs are limited, said Agnew.

Agnew said she would be discussing the youth facility problem in an address today to a meeting of Family Court judges.

While the focus will be on the staffing situation and reducing overcrowding, Agnew said she also has directed the facility to reduce spending by 10 percent.

The solution could involve increasing the size of the youth corrections officer staff, now at 51, she said.

At the root of the UPW grievance was the youth facility policy of "stucking," meaning officers cannot leave until they are relieved.

"YCOs are not authorized to leave their assigned post under any circumstances unless they have been properly relieved. Any YCO who chooses to abandon their post will be subject to disciplinary action for violating our Standards of Conduct," according to the policy.

Union said that policy violates the "rule of reason" because it does not limit the number of consecutive hours, and an employee can be "stuck" and that the policy fails to restrict the total hours of overtime worked in one week "consistent with human endurance or health."

The grievance outlined other lengthy overtime situations:

>> On Nov. 12, 2001, Lia Olione worked 10 p.m. until 2 a.m. and was "stuck" and required to work three more eight-hour shifts for a total of 32 hours on the job.

>> In the same period, officer Gilbert Hicks worked 29 overtime periods, the report said.


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