In The News › City Hall pushes to end policy where laid-off workers can ‘bump’ others with less seniority

May 31, 2011

Source: The Times-Picayune

Filed under: City Government, Civil Service, Orleans Parish

City Hall pushes to end policy where laid-off workers can ‘bump’ others with less seniority

Tuesday, May 31, 2011
By Michelle Krupa
The Times-Picayune

In a move that’s riling some rank-and-file workers at New Orleans City Hall, Mayor Mitch Landrieu has asked the Civil Service Commission to abolish a policy that lets employees whose positions are eliminated claim the jobs of workers with less seniority in similar posts anywhere else in city government.

Known as the “bumping” rule, the long-standing policy can set off a chain reaction across departments and city agencies. An administrative assistant laid off from the Health Department, for instance, can “bump” a worker doing a similar job at the Sewerage & Water Board, who in turn can seize the comparable job of a junior colleague in the Police Department, and so on.

The measure had been slated for a commission vote June 8, but Landrieu’s chief administrative officer on Tuesday sent a letter to the commission chairman asking for a month’s delay so officials can try to allay the fears of employees concerned that the effort presages “significant layoffs.”

“I wouldn’t describe this as a layoff proposal,” CAO Andy Kopplin said Tuesday. “This is a bumping proposal. People were using it to generate concern and uncertainty and anxiety, and that’s unfounded given the nature of this proposal and the situation that we face.

“There is a lot more heat than light in this discussion at this point,” he said.

Kopplin acknowledged, however, that a revised bumping policy would affect changes made under a recent order that required department directors to submit “business plans.” Expected to be implemented during the next month, the plans were to include detailed performance goals and could incorporate staff reductions.

Henry Dean, president of the Fraternal Order of Police and an NOPD commander, said “rumors just are abounding all over the place” about whether the bumping proposal and departmental reorganizations foreshadow massive layoffs, particularly in light of news that the city must pay far more toward employee health coverage than was included in the 2011 budget.

“We don’t know specifically what (Kopplin) is asking for, and it’s creating somewhat of a furor among the rank-and-file,” Dean said.

‘Wasteful and inefficient’

In a May 2 memo to the Civil Service Commission, Kopplin called the current bumping policy “wasteful and inefficient” and said it forces “square pegs … into round holes” by guaranteeing a senior worker a job in an unfamiliar department while displacing an experienced employee.

“This bumping disrupts the normal flow of business in each department and interferes with customer service, costs the department the institutional knowledge of their employees, and requires them to train their new employees to do the jobs of those they replaced, essentially requiring taxpayers to pay a second time to train someone for that position,” he wrote.

Short of doing away with the practice entirely, the administration wants to restrict bumping to employees within the same “organizational unit,” defined as a department, agency, commission or office. The mayor also could define a group of employees within a designated group as a unit unto itself.

The proposed change is just one facet of a major overhaul of the civil service system that Landrieu promised last year, including updating job classifications throughout city government.

The mayor has said employees whose jobs are consolidated or eliminated would be laid off and allowed to reapply for new posts, though the administration has fallen far behind an April deadline it set for completing the reorganization.

The Civil Service Commission’s June 8 agenda also was to include a discussion of the “release” and “rehire” of city workers.

Landrieu said in October that if the commission didn’t back his proposed changes, including the “bumping” restriction, he would name new members who would go along with his ideas. The body’s five commissioners serve overlapping six-year terms, with four nominated by local university presidents and the fifth selected by fellow employees. The City Council must approve the appointments.

Watchdog backs change

Elimination of the bumping rule has been urged for years by the watchdog Bureau of Governmental Research, which in a 2004 report called bumping “an incredibly messy process that wreaks havoc with the work force.”

Citing the BGR study and another report, a consultant this year identified bumping among a long list of problems that make City Hall dysfunctional. Turnaround specialist David Osborne, who was engaged by the Landrieu administration, suggested ending the policy and giving managers the power to lay off workers based on performance.

Osborne also recommended other changes to the civil service system, including “simplifying” job classifications and revamping performance evaluations, that could affect the layoff process.

In a 22-page memo outlining Landrieu’s bumping proposal, the administration argues that current policy runs counter to “the efficient and effective operation of city government” because it erroneously assumes that employees with similar jobs “are substantially identical and readily interchangeable.”

Current rules also offer less job protection to new workers, which “detracts from the goal of seeking to recruit and retain new employees for the system,” the May 2 memo states.

The memo cites policies similar to the mayor’s proposal in Denver, Minneapolis and Baltimore and in state systems in Louisiana, Massachusetts and New York.

“There is a financial aspect as well,” the memo states. “The citywide bumping rules assure that when layoffs occur, those actually laid off will be the lowest-paid civil servants, thus likewise assuring that the highest-paid remain on the city payroll, regardless of whether that result would otherwise be a wise personnel decision.”

May 31, 2011

Source: The Times-Picayune

Filed under: City Government, Civil Service, Orleans Parish

Fair Use Notice

This site occasionally reprints copyrighted material, the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We make such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of issues and to highlight the accomplishments of our affiliates. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is available without profit. For more information go to: US CODE: Title 17,107. Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.