In The News › Bumpy road for rule change: An editorial

Jul 2, 2011

Source: The Times-Picayune

Filed under: City Government, Civil Service, Orleans Parish

Bumpy road for rule change: An editorial

Saturday, July 02, 2011
By Editorial page staff
The Times-Picayune

Mayor Mitch Landrieu wants to end the policy that allows city workers whose jobs are eliminated to claim those of workers in similar posts with less seniority, and he’s right to seek a change.

The so-called “bump’‘ rule is a recipe for inefficiency that puts seniority above performance in determining who stays on at City Hall. Bumping can trigger chain reactions across departments and agencies that can end up eliminating experienced employees who are good at their jobs.

Mayor Landrieu wants to restrict bumping to employees within the same “organizational unit,’‘ which is defined as a department, agency, commission or office. His proposal also would give him the authority to define a group of employees within a designated group as a unit.

The mayor’s proposal is running into opposition from city workers who fear it is a prelude to massive layoffs. They turned out in force at a Civil Service Commission meeting Thursday to object to the change.

Defenders of the bump rule insist that the policy doesn’t put seniority first. And, in fact, Civil Service rules do say that layoffs first apply to all permanent employees whose performance has been rated unsatisfactory, then to those who fall into the “needs improvement’‘ category and so on.

But the argument falls apart in the face of how city employees are rated on performance. As Janet Howard of the Bureau of Governmental Research pointed out in a letter, only 31 of the city’s 4,315 employees were rated as needing improvement in 2010. Even more incredibly, only one employee in the entire municipal workforce was labeled unsatisfactory.

“Because of weaknesses in the evaluation system, seniority — rather than employee performance — is the principal determinant in bumping,’‘ she wrote.

That’s obviously not in the best interest of New Orleans residents who deserve quality service from City Hall. Nor is it in the interest of employees who actually deserve a high performance rating, regardless of how long they’ve worked for the city.

The Landrieu administration has tried to assuage concerns about layoffs — even seeking a delay in the Civil Service Commission’s vote on the matter to address workers’ concerns. The mayor has said that layoffs and furloughs do not figure into efforts to shave $16.2 million from the 2011 budget to make up for a leftover shortfall.

The Civil Service Commission deferred the matter until September. During the intervening weeks, the administration should continue to make the case for change.

But the mayor also should address a legitimate concern raised by BGR, which has supported ending the bump rule. The watchdog group is concerned about giving the mayor the power to designate an “organizational unit.’‘ That language is written broadly, Ms. Howard said, and gives the mayor too much discretion. BGR suggests that the authority to designate a subcategory should belong to the Civil Service Commission, which should use “objective criteria,’‘ to ensure that the unit is composed of employees with clearly related functions.

That’s reasonable, and the Landrieu administration should certainly listen to constructive criticism from supporters of the change.

Jul 2, 2011

Source: The Times-Picayune

Filed under: City Government, Civil Service, Orleans Parish

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