Clash Over Changes in Civil Service Rules Isn’t Civil at All
When Gov. Chris Christie called Democrats’ bluff on a key labor issue last week – as the state Civil Service Commission followed through on its promise to relax promotion standards for most state jobs — the only surprise was that opponents of the changes were not ready with a coordinated response.
But they hope to agree this week on a counter-strategy to undo the unilateral moves by the Christie-appointed commission, which thumbed its collective nose at organized labor and Democratic legislators with its vote on Wednesday.
The commission’s action was the latest move in a cat-and-mouse game that began early last year between the governor, who is seeking more freedom for managers to reassign workers, and labor unions trying to preserve protections against political patronage in state jobs.
Traditionally, Civil Service job applicants and employees have been required to pass tests to be hired or to advance.
As part of a package first presented early last year to streamline regulations, the commission proposed lowering the requirements by grouping job classes into larger “bands,” allowing managers to shift some workers around without passing qualifying tests for their new positions.
In January, both chambers passed concurrent resolutions establishing the Legislature’s stance that the commission’s plan would violate the law and the state constitution.
Acting as though those votes never happened, the commission adopted the governor’s plan with some modest changes. The new version clarifies that the rules apply to state, not municipal, employees, exempts law-enforcement and public-safety positions, and states its intent to preserve a job preference for veterans. The commission also gave dissatisfied employees the right to appeal, albeit to the commission.
Those amendments would not affect the majority of the state’s Civil Service workers, who still would work with less job security and a more fluid promotion system under the new regulations. (Tyrrell/NJSpotlight)