I hate to say I predicted this, but …

This was the subject of one of my first blog posts here at Blogging Blue. The language in the budget enables the current proposed changes to the civil service in Wisconsin:

The latest proposal won’t be released until next week but the legislators said it would:

■Drop the exams that job candidates for state government are often required to take in favor of a résumé system. What will the resume for state corrections officers look like? Or for janitors? Resumes are pretty darned easy to manipulate, exams far less so. This is a very bad idea.

■Make the new personnel division within the Department of Administration responsible for all hiring rather than individual state agencies. How does this add “efficiency”? It means that when there are personnel issues, even in large agencies like Correction and Health Services, they must be funneled through the Department of Administration rather than at the agency level. Sounds like more control for the already heavily-politicized DoA.

■Define “just cause” for firing employees to make it clear that the state could dismiss employees for showing up to work drunk, being physically violent, engaging in sexual harassment, stealing taxpayer goods or not showing up to work for three days in a year with no notification. The “just cause” standard goes well beyond defining actions that can lead to discipline or dismissal. “Just cause” also requires adequate warning of the consequences of conduct; a reasonable relationship between the workplace rule and safe and efficient operations in the workplace; investigation before administering the discipline; a fair and objective investigation; substantial proof of guilt resulting from the investigation; evenhanded application of the rules; and a reasonable relationship between the discipline and the action for which the employee is disciplined, given the circumstances and the employee’s past record. On the surface, dismissal could very well be deemed an unreasonable response to a single instance of the above-mentioned infractions of work rules.

■Shorten the appeals process by more than half for employees being disciplined or fired, which can last up to a year and a half.  From what I’ve seen, employees have 14 days to take action after each action taken by the employer, but the employer would have more time to respond. Frankly, 14 days is a very short time to respond to a dismissal. I served on the UW Academic Staff Appeals Committee for many years, and learning of a dismissal can be devastating to an employee. If you have an emotional response, it can be nearly impossible to make that 14 day deadline. The employer (the State of Wisconsin) has financial and staff resources to prepare the case against the employee, while the employee only has him or herself and family. The already-uneven battle is made more so when the State arbitrarily shortens the period within which the employee can respond.

■Require an annual performance review of all state workers and set aside $6 million for merit pay bonuses. There are 30,000 state employees. $6 million doesn’t go very far, does it? Besides, we have heard before about “merit pay.” It has been cut to save money in the budget, when the sometime-governor was unable to balance it. What’s to ensure that won’t happen again?

■End the ability of senior employees to bump less tenured colleagues out of jobs in the event of layoffs. Why? 

As Peter Barca noted, this bill violates the promise that Mr. Walker made when he signed Act 10, that employees would retain civil service protection. The bill upends civil service, to no good end.

Honestly, to pretend that it will enhance hiring for state positions is ludicrous. Why would anyone sign on for a lower-paid state position without civil service protections with reduced benefits? Rep. Steineke, Sen. Roth, Mr. Walker, you need your heads examined.


7 Responses to End of civil service

  1. John Casper says:

    “As Peter Barca noted, this bill violates the promise that Mr. Walker made when he signed Act 10, that employees would retain civil service protection. The bill upends civil service, to no good end.”


    • Sue says:

      Scott Walker is back in Wisconsin. Perhaps Wisconsin media can learn from its national brothers and sisters and … ask him about that? And then ask him again?

  2. Duane12 says:

    Although I have no surgical experience, medical education, or never read a “how to” book, I would be pleased to “examine” the heads of the three aforementioned conservative stooges..

    “Nurse, gloves please…”

  3. nonquixote says:

    From, “The Great Communicator,” over at another blog:

    Just cause definition.

    Just cause I didn’t like him.
    Just cause she was a girl.
    Just cause my sister’s kid needed a job.
    Just cause he didn’t donate to my campaign.

    Just cause I said so!

    I’ll add, just cause I signed the recall.

  4. This is a “solution” in search of a problem.

    What Republicans don’t want to admit is the reason the state isn’t hiring new employees fast enough is because the changes they made through Act 10 have made working for the state far less desirable than it used to be. As a result, established employees are leaving far faster than they can be replaced, and the replacements they’re getting are by and large far less qualified/capable to do the jobs they’re being hired for.

    • MadCityVoter says:

      Let’s also note that, thanks to flat or declining budgets and capricious, often highly politicized Legislative oversight (or threats of same), it’s often like pulling teeth to get a new position approved or permission to fill an existing position. The last one we posted took something like a year to o.k. before we even posted it. The actual search and screen, though, took only about two months, and the hire about a week after that. From the candidate’s point of view it went pretty quick, from application to interview to hire.

      I have to wonder about that “6 months to hire, lost our preferred candidate” anecdote to justify blowing up the system — sounds like they had a candidate before they had a position, which means they were bending the rules to start with. Sometimes there are good reasons for that (to hire a promising intern or LTE, for example) but the chances for abuse are high enough that you really do want several levels of administrative oversight, which is always going to take some time. A permanent State job represents a significant and ongoing commitment of public funds — there needs to be an equal level of accountability. See WEDC for how it shouldn’t be done.

  5. William Franks, Jr. says:

    Comments are on point – especially the “Just Cause” example. When pay and work conditions deteriorate, those who are able to leave will do so. Speeding up the hiring process won’t help anything, if the turnover rate is 7% (not counting retirements). With retirements, you’re over close to 10% per annum. BF.

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