In The News › Opinion: Mayor, city workers on shaky footing

Jul 6, 2011

Source: CityBusiness

Filed under: City Government, Civil Service, Orleans Parish

Opinion: Mayor, city workers on shaky footing

Wednesday, July 6, 2011
By CityBusiness Commentary
CityBusiness

City of New Orleans employees are opposed to changes in the civil service system that would end the practice of “bumping.” It allows a worker whose position is eliminated to replace an existing worker with less seniority, even if the eliminated person isn’t a direct fit for that job.

The sole determining factor in who gets bumped is seniority, not job performance. Mayor Mitch Landrieu wants to do away with the practice completely.

We support the spirit of his stance and encourage him to take a more precise look at how it could be improved as he continues the push a promised overhaul of the civil service system.

In the private sector, a position is usually eliminated to reflect payroll limitations. When possible, the person affected is absorbed in a comparable position. But the most likely scenario is a layoff, as seldom is that employee forced into a job for which they’re under or overqualified.

City government should be no different, but the problem New Orleans faces is that its system for evaluating civil service employees is nothing short of a joke. According to the Bureau of Governmental Research, an evaluation of 4,315 city employees last year showed that just 31 were in need of improvement.

City employees who actually do exemplary work should be offended that their efforts are taken so lightly.

But if the remaining 4,284 were actually that good and had no concerns about their job future, the scene in City Council chambers June 30 would have never unfolded. That was when concerned municipal workers spent more than two hours telling the Civil Service Commission the mayor’s idea to end bumping was a bad one.

In the private sector, employees who have proven to be valuable to the company have little to no fear of elimination. The employer recognizes how hard it would be to do business without them and takes measures to retain them.

There’s no reason the same standard can’t be applied at City Hall, but again it goes back to having a working, meaningful evaluation system in place.

City employees fear the mayor’s bumping stance sets the stage for widespread layoffs, but Landrieu would find it hard to take that step without some measureable standard on which Civil Service can base decisions on who to keep and who to let go.

The Landrieu administration has said there are no plans for layoffs and that the bumping changes it proposes are “modest” adjustments. But that wasn’t enough to convince the Civil Service Commission to act on them last week, choosing instead to defer a decision until September at the earliest.

While commission members are probably passing the buck to their successors, their move gives the mayor’s office ample time to address the matter of city employee evaluations.

Hopefully, a new employee grading system can be put in place by the end of the year that provides a qualified and quantifiable review of municipal workers to decide just who needs to be on the job and who needs to take a walk. That should be the first task for incoming Civil Service commissioners.

Until then, the city is stuck between a rock and employees who are hard to fire.

Jul 6, 2011

Source: CityBusiness

Filed under: City Government, Civil Service, Orleans Parish

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