[IPAC-List] Oops

Mark Hammer Mark.Hammer at psc-cfp.gc.ca
Fri Jun 15 11:37:30 EDT 2012

The link was behaving a little wonky, redirecting me to a different
item, so here is the text of the article. Thanks Harry.
Civil Service Changes Gain a Foothold
The campaign to recall Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker for his
anti-union initiatives was the most talked-about issue on the state
labor front this spring. Walker, who sponsored legislation banning
collective bargaining for most public workers, survived his recall
election on June 5, emboldening fellow Republicans who remain eager to
do battle with unions.
But while the Wisconsin campaign was attracting national attention,
important developments for state workers were proceeding with less
fanfare elsewhere in the country. Most notably, Arizona, Colorado and
Tennessee passed sweeping overhauls of their civil service systems,
which govern hiring and firing practices and offer the only avenue for
grievances to be resolved in states where collective bargaining is
These were moves of major proportions. State civil service systems were
designed to ensure that employees would be hired based on their merits,
rather than political affiliations, and would be shielded from political
influence. Due process and grievance and appeal procedures were put into
place to guarantee that rank-and-file employees wouldn't be fired every
time there was a shift in party control.
Supporters of civil service change argued, however, that state
personnel codes have been riddled with archaic and cumbersome rules that
make it difficult to hire and retain a talented workforce. Arizona
Governor Jan Brewer said the existing system served to benefit the least
productive employees while failing to reward and incentivize the best.
She said the existing grievance system was so cumbersome that agency
managers were keeping problem employees around just so that they didn’t
have to deal with it.
Brewer made civil service changes her top priority in the 2012
legislative session, and she succeeded in getting them enacted. The
changes will gradually transition the state away from a traditional
civil service structure towards an “at will” system that mirrors private
sector companies. Agency managers will have flexibility to hire and fire
employees as they choose, and reward star employees with bonuses and pay
increases without legislative approval.
The legislation will automatically eliminate civil service protections —
including the ability to file a grievance or appeal disciplinary actions
— for new hires and some current employees. Anyone who accepts a raise,
a promotion or a transfer to another position in state government will
convert to “at will” status. This means that state workers, whose
salaries have been frozen since 2008, will have a difficult decision to
make in October about whether to accept a scheduled 3.75 percent bonus.
If they accept this one-time bonus, they will go to “at will” and
permanently give up their current job protections. The governor's office
expects that, under the new law, 82 percent of the workforce would
become “at will” within the next four years, compared to 26 percent
Matthew Benson, director of communications for Brewer, says the
governor is confident that the 35,000 workers who make up the state’s
bureaucracy will remain isolated from politics. “These are the people
who, administration through administration, keep state government
operating,” he says. “We don't see that changing. These positions by and
large have nothing to do with politics. We don't see a future
administration coming in and clearing out the state workforce by
bringing in their friends.”End of Bumping
Changes to the personnel systems in Colorado and Tennessee will end, or
at least minimize, a practice known as "bumping." Bumping allows
employees whose positions are being eliminated to force others with less
seniority into lower positions, or even out of the workforce altogether.
The resulting chain reaction can undo years of training and push
employees into positions that are a poor fit for their skills.
A major focus of Tennessee’s civil service legislation was bringing
more flexibility to the way the state recruits and hires workers, in
preparation for an influx of new employees. Almost 40 percent of
Tennessee’s workforce will become eligible for retirement in the next
five years. The legislation also streamlines the appeals process and
overhauls the performance evaluation system for employees. Performance
evaluations will be tied to pay and used as the primary consideration in
“For decades, employment decisions in state government have been based
solely on seniority with job performance never being considered, and
employees have either received modest, across the board pay increases or
nothing at all,” Republican Governor Bill Haslam said when he signed the
bill in April. “No one has been able to convince me that is a good way
to manage our employees or serve our taxpayers.”
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper is pursuing additional civil
service changes, but they will require a vote of the people because many
of the existing civil service rules are part of the state’s
constitution. The legislature voted to put a package of changes on the
ballot in November that would give the state more flexibility in how it
evaluates and hires job applicants. State agencies are currently
required to choose from among the top three scorers on a competitive
test; the new system would permit a more analytical approach under which
the state could pick from the top six finalists.Right-To-Work
Meanwhile, Indiana was enacting a controversial “right-to-work” law
aimed at curtailing the influence of unions in private sector
employment. The law makes it illegal for businesses and unions to
negotiate contracts that require all employees — including those who do
not wish to be union members — to pay union fees as a condition of their
As pro-union protesters from around the state descended upon the
Indiana Capitol, Democrats stalled the right-to-work bill for a few
weeks by denying the House the quorum necessary to conduct business.
Ultimately the legislation passed by a comfortable margin, making
Indiana the 23rd state to enact such a law and the first to do so in the
industrial Midwest. To date this year, legislators in 19 other states
have introduced some form of right-to-work legislation, but Indiana has
been the only state to enact it. New Hampshire Governor John Lynch, a
Democrat, has vetoed a similar right-to-work bill.Pension Issues
States continued to make changes to the retirement and health care
benefits that they have historically provided to their workforces.
“There has been a lot of uncertainty among employees as pension
legislation has been making its way through state legislatures,” says
Leslie Scott, director of the National Association of State Personnel
Executives. “There's a little more stability this year as far as
maintaining employment, but changes in benefits are now the major
Pension legislation asking workers to chip in more toward their
retirement income was enacted in states controlled by Democrats as well
as those dominated by Republicans. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a
popular Democrat, shepherded legislation that asks new workers to
contribute more toward their pensions and to work longer before
States continued to experiment with cash balance and hybrid retirement
plans that function more like a 401(k) than a traditional pension. The
plans transfer some of the risk to workers when pension investments
don’t make money, but allow more portability if workers choose not to
spend their entire careers in state government. Louisiana Governor Bobby
Jindal, a Republican, signed legislation last week that creates a
mandatory cash balance plan for new employees. Virginia and Kansas
passed similar overhauls of their pension systems earlier this
spring.After WiscThe most intriguing questions following Walker’s recall survival in
Wisconsin may play out in states with powerful public sector unions and
strong collective bargaining rights. Now that the recall election is
over and Walker has kept his job, many expect a heightened level of
activity in state legislatures around labor issues. Gary Chaison,
professor of industrial relations at Clark University, says he expects
to see a slew of bills that would have the cumulative effect of severely
weakening unions by eroding their infrastructure and limiting the scope
of bargaining negotiations.
“I think state legislatures are going to be tremendously emboldened,”
he says. “Most state legislatures now are sitting on a bill that would
limit [union] dues payments. Most state legislatures are just waiting to
bring that out. They can always tell their unions, ‘You may not like it,
but it could be a lot worse.’”
In Michigan, however, voters this fall will consider a ballot measure
that fights back against recent legislative challenges to union power by
putting public sector collective bargaining rights in the state’s
constitution. It is designed to void anti-collective bargaining bills
already enacted by the Republican-controlled legislature and signed by
Republican Governor Rick Snyder. One of the laws in question, which
passed earlier this spring, makes it illegal for school districts to
collect union dues. It is also a preemptive strike against future
legislation, including a right-to-work bill that has some support in the
legislature but is opposed by the governor.
California voters will consider a ballot measure in November that would
prohibit governments from deducting union dues from workers’ paychecks
if the money will be used for political purposes.Maine controversy
Labor relations in Maine have proven to be particularly thorny under
Republican Governor Paul LePage, and the legislature has shown some
interest in limiting current collective bargaining rights. This spring
the legislature ended collective bargaining for family childcare
providers paid by the state who are currently represented by the Maine
State Employees Association. The LePage administration has been unable
to reach an agreement with that union, the largest representing state
workers, since its previous contracts expired in July 2011. The union
has three pending complaints before Maine’s state labor board.
The governor stirred up controversy by calling the middle tier of state
employees “about as corrupt as you can be” in an April 26 town hall
meeting. A follow-up letter he sent to state employees didn’t do much to
help smooth things over. After acknowledging that many state workers are
doing “great things for the people of Maine,” the governor wrote that
other employees, for whatever reason, “have not come on board.
Roadblocks have been put up, hurdles have been thrown in the way, and
information has not been passed along to senior management … In my
opinion it shows that they have been corrupted by the bureaucracy.”


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