State decreases overtime expenses to cover corrections officers’ sick calls

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Corrections officers are calling in sick in big numbers. It’s an issue we’ve been following, and one that doesn’t seem to be going away.

The latest example was during the big game two Sundays ago. We asked prison officials how many workers called in sick and were told 230 out of 733 workers scheduled for that day.

That number is down from the previous year when 255 workers called in sick.

When someone calls in sick, someone else has to stay on, and in some situations, work consecutive shifts to make sure all essential positions are filled. This means millions in overtime being paid out by the state.

The Department of Public Safety says it paid out $9.6 million in overtime to its employees in 2014, compared to $8 million last year.

DPS director Nolan Espinda says it’s a situation he’s looking into.

“Overtime like attendance is something we constantly monitor and something often scrutinized on, so we’re working consistently,” he said. “Last year, we had a decrease in overtime throughout the state of Hawaii totaling about $1.6 million.”

KHON2 asked Espinda what’s being done about it.

“Well, we can appeal to each staff individually and ask them to be considerate of their coworkers, be considerate of the people that come and visit and when possible, adjust their shifts, but make it a priority to come to work so that we can get what the taxpayers expect of us done,” he said.

Sen. Will Espero says it’s a high number, but it’s good to see the state making progress.

But, he says, the state still needs to consider possible solutions. “We can work with the unions to maybe provide incentives for individuals not to take their sick leave if they don’t have to, but again, it is a contractual agreement,” he said.

The majority of workers who called in sick on Feb. 7 were scheduled to work at Halawa Correctional Facility — 68 sick calls out of 165 scheduled.

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