Haslam Administration Says State Workers Want Civil Service to Change

State workers – at least those surveyed by the Haslam Administration – want civil service rules to change. The governor proposed legislation this week that would loosen hiring restrictions and make pay more flexible.

Governor Bill Haslam said his 22 department heads agreed that the decades-old work rules were one of the biggest obstacles to government operating efficiently. But so did the 100 long-time employees that the Haslam Administration talked to in small groups. Deputy Governor Claude Ramsey says he heard the same thing in Knoxville as he heard at a meeting in Memphis.

Deputy Governor Claude Ramsey

Deputy Governor Claude Ramsey

“Two hours later we had our second hearing in Memphis, and I would have thought that the second group was standing behind the door somewhere listening to what the first group said.”

Ramsey says managers gave examples of losing good employees not because they were unhappy, but because their job was effectively a dead end. Haslam’s legislation would give managers the flexibility to pay for performance. The governor says not every employee is going to like his new rules, but he says the feedback so far suggests – quote – “it’s the right thing to do.”

The Haslam Administration has built an entire website to promote the governor’s legislative package. Much of it is dedicated to potential changes in civil service rules for the state’s 40,000 employees.

A web video attempts to explain a system known as “bumping,” which would go away if the legislature approves Governor Haslam’s proposal. When a senior state employee faces a layoff, he or she can take the job of a less senior employee, which sets off a chain reaction called “retreating.”

VIDEO: “Think this sounds a little convoluted? It gets better.”

Another section of the site answers frequently asked questions, like how the new system would prevent cronyism. The answer says that political affiliation would not be given weight in the new process.

The Tennessee State Employees Association says it opposes the possible elimination of civil service rights. Its members may end up using another part of the state website to lodge their concerns. It’s a comment form asking for feedback on the governor’s plan.

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